Category: French girls names
by Jeanette Soto
The name Jeanette was given to me by my young, hip parents during the infamous Chicago heat wave of 1987. The name had been out of fashion for over four decades and not coming back in style any time soon. The minute I learned how to spell it, I was frustrated by all the other people who couldn’t. One girl in grammar school insisted that it should be spelled with a ‘G’ because it sounded “too hard” to be spelled with a ‘J. Most often, people spell my name with one too many N’s or one to few T’s; misspellings include Jeannette, Janet, Jennet, Jenette, Jenet, Ginette and Ginet, but practically nobody gets it right.
Why did my parents give me a name that wasn’t just dated, but came with a slew of spellings? My mother’s excuse: Pregnancy amnesia, or brain fog caused by pregnancy hormones. It came over my mother at the time she was trying to remember the name she wanted to give me, so Colette Madeleine morphed into Jeanette Ashley.
What other names have Jeanette’s retro -ette ending and unusual style? Here, some choices:
Paging through the fat new issue of Vogue the other night, I found myself riveted not by the gorgeous models, not by the fabulous clothes, but by – mais oui – the names.
The French names, in particular, which seemed to jump out at me everywhere from the magazine, attached to chic grownup women as well as charming little girls and boys.
But there’s a whole new group of French names coming up, along with a raft of classic French names never widely used among English speakers which sound fresh and chic right now.
While international names such as Hugo and Luna, Old Testament choices like Sarah and Noah, and even English names such as Emma and Tom may dominate the French baby name popularity list, authentically French choices are fashionable too, in Pittsburgh as well as Paris.
Here, French names that are chic for your own little fille or garcon.
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, we turned to a true expert, Stéphanie Rapoport, creator of the popular site meilleursprénoms.com and author of L’Officiel des Prénoms 2010. For anyone conversant in French, the site is filled with interesting lists, charts and analysis on French baby names.
And for those whose high school French is as shaky as mine, we asked Stéphanie to give us a recap, which she’s been kind enough to do:
“Baby names in France have never been shorter: exit Sébastien, Alexandre, Frédéric, Caroline, Nathalie, Angélique—the popular names of the 1980’s. Emma, Léa, Clara now take the limelight as the most popular feminine names, while Lucas, Enzo and Nathan dominate the masculine ranking tables.
Ending sounds are also shaping to a large extent what becomes trendy and what does not. Fashionable feminine names tend to end in the vowel ‘a’ (Emma, Sara, Léa, Clara, Lola, Éva, Louna and Lina being in the forefront). Then there’s the explosion caused by Lilou, a new name which has led to the discovery of Louane and renewed interest in hyphenated names such as Lou–Anne. For boys, names with ‘eo’ vowel juxtapositions abound, as in Léo, Théo, Mathéo, also o-endings (Hugo, Enzo) and names ending in ‘an’—Nathan, Ethan, Kylian, Evan, Esteban.