Just the other day, the NY Times reviewed an insanely awesome-sounding book by Graham Robb, The Discovery of France, that basically shows how historically, France is not the enchanting-yet-annoying cultural monolith we all love [and American politicians love to hate]; it's actually “a vast encyclopedia of micro-civilizations,” that's only being knit together in modern times.
Which means the France that's beating its immigrant families over the head for their non-assimilationist ways is a fantasy, a willful forgetting of history. Which doesn't mean that if you give your French kid an immigrant-sounding name, he won't face any job discrimination, because he will.
In today's Times Elisabeth [with an 's'] Vincentelli reports on recent naming trend debates in France, and from the sound of things, babynamology ranks right up there with phrenology and mesmerism on the scientifickal scale:
Indeed, bourgeois French parents are unlikely to give their children “Anglo-Saxon” names; Jennifer was the most popular name for girls from 1984 to 1986, but it’s a safe bet few Jennifers came from well-educated families. (The craze is commonly explained by the success of the TV series “Hart to Hart” in France at that time — Jennifer Hart was one of the title characters — while “Beverly Hills, 90210,” featuring a popular character named Dylan McKay, is sometimes blamed for the explosion of Dylans a few years later.)"Hart to Hart"?? Remember that the next time some Frenchie tries to give you an inferiority complex. Though upon reflection, I wonder if it explains the Great American Max Explosion, too. Glass houses.
You Are What Your Name Says You Are [nyt]
15 Frenchfolk discuss their names, in French [liberation.fr]
Just published: La cote des prénoms 2008/The Index of First Names 2008 by Joséphine Besnard [amazon.fr]