Wednesday, August 18, 2010

French Baby Names - Chic or Confusing?

French Baby Names - Chic or Confusing?

My friend, Marie, works at a government office in Ottawa, Canada where French is as commonly spoken as English. Amusingly, she neither understands nor speaks French. "French people are all around me," she shared in one email. "Every time they speak, all I hear are ducks quacking and birds chirping (a lot of quack-quack-quack and la-er-la-la-er)." Yes, that's my good friend who has now managed to butcher one of Canada's holy grails.

Contrary to Marie, French was my favorite subject in high school. Oui, oui, I confess that I am a Francophile, and my French addiction is not contained to language. I am equally keen on their buttery soft cheeses--camemberts and bries--as well as their sinfully decadent cream sauces. Consider, too, that I almost named my business "Patachou," a salute to my love for French pastries. The sound of the French words "pâte à choux" are lyrical and cheerful, evoking much more than its simple English equivalent. Sadly enough, my French comprehension has dimmed to the point that now only allows me to order, albeit with some degree of confidence, french wines and dinners. C'est dommage, as they say. Too bad.

In any case, I consider myself fortunate to have a French name: Angelique. In spite of my Asian heritage, I had great hopes of having a distant relation to a great-aunt in Provence from the 17th century. Even an au pair in the barnyard would have sufficed. But when prodding my parents for my name's inspiration, I was truly disappointed. The best answer my Dad could summon was, "Ask your mother," to which she replied, "I don't remember. I must have heard the name on television."

My parents come from a family whose naming traditions are amusingly generous. Consequently, they never lost sleep over the naming of their children since each was blessed with many. It is fortunate, then, that the names they gave my siblings do not bother them in the least. I especially fancy my younger sister's name, Salome, for its legendary courage. Put it beside the devout "Angelique" and my name now seems boring and timid by comparison. Regardless, it's French, and I'm not complaining.

I prefer French names because they're sophisticated and lyrical, and they seem to exude finesse. If you are planning to bestow your child with a French name, here are some of my recommendations:

French Baby Names for Boys

Cyrano, Gascon, Antoine, Chance, Émile, Fernand, Adrien, Felix, Julien, Rémy, Benoit, Fabrice

French Baby Names for Girls

Blanche, Alisanne, Cerise, Simone, Adèle, Clarisse, Brettany, Charline, Adele

The majority of masculine French baby names can be transformed into feminine ones by adding the suffixes -e, -ette, or -ine. For example, Paul becomes Paulette, Jean to Jeanne, and Jacques to Jacqueline. Many French names are hyphenated as in the case of Marie-Elise, Marie-Hélene, and Paul-Henri.

Admit it, when you say those names out loud, don't they seem as if they came from a movie screen? Additionally, the accents will make you purr as you savor their uniqueness. If you feel uncomfortable about this because you have no French heritage, well, just look at my parents! Why not give your baby a little something something to write about? Believe me, your little wee one will thank you for it later.

By Gabriela Gerner

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