Category: French baby names
In Hollywood’s Golden Age, there was nothing that would make an actress (before they were called actors) seem more chic and sophisticated than a French-sounding name, especially one ending in ‘ette,’ as in the cigarette they often smoked in a long, ivory holder.
And so Pauline Levy became Paulette Goddard, Lily Chauchon (who actually did have French roots) was renamed Claudette Colbert, Ruby Fabares morphed into Nanette Fabray, and Jeanette MacDonald remained Jeanette MacDonald.
These and other glamorized Gallicized names caught on with the baby-naming public, which led to a lot of little Annettes and Nanettes. Many of these names sound terminally dated at this point due to their era-stamped ending and being overly obvious feminizations of male names. But there are also some less familiar ’ette’ names that aren’t necessarily Grandmas. And so here are two lists: those ette names that may have been overexposed in the past, and those that sound somewhat fresher.
To check out the latest trends in French baby names—-and see what the future holds– we turn once again to our favorite French correspondent, Stéphanie Rapoport, creator of the popular site meilleursprénoms.com and author of L’Officiel des Prénoms 2011, the latest edition of which is available on French Amazon.
Here is my forecast for the Top 20 French baby names of 2011 based on statistical data from Insee, the national institute of statistics in France. The names displayed in italics are variant spellings which have been given to more than 500 babies this year.
|1. Emma||1. Lucas, Luca, Luka(s)|
|2. Jade||2. Mathis, Mathys, Matis|
|3. Chloé, Cloé||3. Noah, Noa|
|4. Sarah, Sara||4. Nathan|
|5. Léa||5. Mathéo, Matteo, Mateo|
|6. Manon||6. Enzo|
|7. Louna, Luna||7. Louis|
|8. Inès, Ynès||8. Raphaël, Rafaël|
|9. Lilou, Lylou||9. Ethan|
|10. Camille||10. Gabriel|
|11. Clara||11. Jules|
|12. Maëlys||12. Maxime|
|13. Zoé||13. Yanis|
|14. Louise||14. Théo, Téo|
|15. Lola||15. Arthur|
|16. Lina, Lyna||16. Tom|
|17. Lily, Lilly, Lili||17. Hugo|
|18. Eva||18. Timéo|
|19. Louan(n)e, Lou-Ann(e)||19. Thomas|
|20. Lucie||20. Kylian, Killian|
This year, Gabriel, Samuel and Louis have shown unexpected gains in the rankings. On the other hand, Marie has plunged to 37th place, down almost 20 spots in one year. Marie was the most common name from the 15th to the 20th century in France, but although more than 1.3 million French women are still named Marie, it has finally had to let new names take over.
The rise of Old Testament names like Nathan, Gabriel, Raphaël and Noah (Noé) comes in striking contrast to the decline of Marie. The fact that the country is largely Catholic has, for centuries, resulted in the choice of traditional names such as Paul, Pierre, Luc, Jean, Mathieu or Anne, Marie, Jeanne, Catherine.
Americans might ask: What about our consistent champion Jacob ? Well, this name has never made it into the limelight here; over the 20th century, it has never been given to more than 50 French babies in any year. In 2010, Jacob has been given to only 25 boys, so that it doesn’t even register in the top 1000. Unlike Joshua, with its dual dimension as a Protestant and Jewish name, (Joshua appears in the top 200 this year), Jacob tends to be considered as a very religious Jewish name, a tag shunned by most other parents in this increasingly secular society.
Stephanie Rapoport created MeilleursPrenoms.com with her husband Stuart in 2000, frustrated because “it had been so hard to choose the names of our children and the web at that time did not provide great sites such as Nameberry and MeilleursPrenoms” Her first book, “Officiel des prenoms” was published in 2002 and she has been enriching it with new name statistics analysis every year since.
In late 1950s France there emerged a group of young intellectual, experimental filmmakers, including François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol and Jean-Luc Goddard, who became known collectively as La Nouvelle Vague or New Wave, and changed the face of film.
In films like Breathless, they rebelled against traditional French cinema, employing such groundbreaking techniques as using real locations, hand-held cameras, natural lighting and improvised scripts, jump cuts, voiceovers and slanguage, all of which had a profound influence on such later American directors as Martin Scorese, Francis Ford Coppola, John Cassavetes, Robert Altman and Quentin Tarantino.
But though their techniques emigrated across the Atlantic, the names of many of the characters in their films did not, and, looking through the casts of characters in these movies, we find a variety of fresh options, particularly on the female side, with sleek ine-ending choices and feminissima ette names.
The official lists of most popular names of 2009 are starting to come in, and one of the most intriguing is from Quebec, the Canadian province where French is an official language and baby names have a distinct style.
While some choices on the Top 50 most popular names for each gender are familiar, others are wildly divergent. Emma, number 1 in the US, is number 3 in Quebec, for instance, with Chloe, Sarah, and Emilie (as opposed to Emily) also in the Top 25. The international William is Number 1 for boys, with U.S. most popular Jacob in 11th place and Zachary, Benjamin, Noah, Anthony, and Justin in the Top 25.
But then you have other names near the top of the list that are unusual or virtually unknown in the U.S. and the U.K. Lea, usually with an accent as Léa, is the Number 1 girls’ name, with such exotic choices as Maika, Noemie, Coralie, Laurence, Maelie, and Oceane in the girls’ Top 25. For boys, the Top 25 includes Olivier, Alexis, Felix, Antoine, Emile, Loic, and Mathis, pronounced Mat-TEES.
Just as names move in and out of fashion so do sounds and initial letters. In the 70s and 80s, J-names ruled, from Jennifer and Jason to Jessica and Joshua, and then came the Ms –Michael, Matthew, Melissa, Megan, the Bs—Brianna, Brittany, Brandon, the Ks—Kayla, Kimberly, Kelsey, and the still continuing As and Es—Ashley, Amanda, Ava, Emily Emma.
But what did they replace? If you want proof of how an initial can fall totally out of favor, all you have to do is look at the performance record of the letter P.
In the last year counted, you have to scroll the Social Security list all the way down to #60 to find a single name beginning with that letter—the girl’s name Peyton—and for boys it isn’t until #124 that you get to Preston. When P-names were in their prime, in 1950, you would have found nine names in the Top 60—Peter, Patrick, Philip, Paul, Peggy, Phyllis, Paula, Pamela and Patricia, none of which is found in the Top 100 today.
I’m not saying Phyllis is necessarily ready for her comeback (though those boys’ names could be), but there are certainly other P-names worthy of trying to resuscitate the reputation of that lost letter. Such as:
PALOMA – Paloma is one of the loveliest options, and among the best bets for success. Meaning ‘dove’ and thus symbolizing peace, it’s both gentle and dynamic. A similarly appealing Latin name is PALMA, namesake of the charming city on the island of Majorca.
PATSY – Saucy, spunky nickname name that hasn’t been heard for so long that it’s beginning to sounds fresh.
PEARL – Definitely regaining some of its old luster.
PERSIS –A distinctive New Testament choice for the intrepid baby namer.