November 6, 2007

If France Is Real, It's Baby Naming Trends Are Unusually Precise

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]

6 Comments

You forgot numerology, graphology, and astrology - all of which are used with some frequency as criteria for hiring on jobs in France. I remember reading once in Le Monde about the head of an advertising agency who proclaimed proudly that she only hired aquariuses for her company, because they were the most creative and compatible with her own astrological sign. And I don't know if it's changed much now, but back in the 90s when I was working there, all applications for jobs were expected to include a hand-written letter, which would be analyzed by a certified graphologist.

My wife was once asked by a potential employer if she was planning on getting pregnant soon.

Only hires aquariuses, eh...? They didn't happen to mention the name of this ad agency, did they??

Well, in Finland, if you have a child in a mixed couple, e.g. one half immigrant, one half Finn, it is definitely in the child's best future employment interests to give them as Finnish a name as possible since it is very common practice to not even interview someone whose name is obviously not Finnish.

[awesome, and I assume Finland has one of those official name lists you have to choose from or you don't get to register the birth, too, I suppose? -ed.]

Max? Worse--David. As in Hasselhoff. And then there are all those Lukes running around...

[with their dads chasing after them, going "JOIN Me. Are you really named after The Hoff? Or is this a general German trend that needs investigating? -ed.]

Ed - Yes, it's one of those places. Read the story on the most popular names ( http://www.hs.fi/english/article/Aino+and+Eetu+top+list+of+most+popular+childrens+names+/1135231071996 ) and there are links at the bottom regarding the lastest challenge on the name Axl (as in Rose) and the name registry in which you can search for such traditional names as Leia and Gandalf :)

I think the Max explosion is due to everybody that grew up on "Where the Wild Things Are" finally coming of age.

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