Category: French names
There’s a new generation of names popular in Paris, all fresh and chic-sounding beyond the French borders. Will they translate to the English-speaking world? The Francophiles among us might like to try.
Capucine – Once associated with a hypersexy French actress, this ancient name is newly chic.
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.
Tomorrow is Mardi Gras, and in New Orleans, that means one thing: a parade featuring Rex, King of Carnival. Mardi Gras parades begin days earlier, and every parade organization – called a krewe – has its royalty. But Rex and his Queen, along with their court of Maids, Dukes, and Pages, occupy a special place in the revels.
Rex traces its roots to 1872, and their royals have been drawn from the most prominent of New Orleans families. The men named Rex are accomplished civic leaders; their consorts are chosen from the season’s debutantes.
Over the years, Rex and his court have worn some fascinating names – a mix of old Southern tradition and French influence. Here are some of my favorites, drawn from decades of Mardi Gras’ reigning royals:
It’s not really so surprising that the names of dances would be strikingly rhythmic and melodic, but when I started to look into it, I was somewhat taken aback by the sheer number and variety—and by how many of them could conceivably be seen as baby names.
The following list cuts across time and space, from Italian Renaissance peasant dances and stately minuets to complex international folk dances to Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers to 1960s line dancing to 1980s Brazilian zouk.
ABHIA—a ceremonial dance done by southern Sudan tribal women around a mango tree
ABRAXAS—a serpentine ritual dance of the Greek Gnostics to the deity of that name
ALEMANDER—folk dance performed in Germany and Switzerland
APARINA—a Tahitian dance for 60 men and women sitting in four rows
BARYNYA—a lively Russian folk dance; also the name of several Russian folk dancing ensembles
BOSTON—the original name of the American Waltz, introduced in that city in 1834
BRANSIE—an old French follow-the-leader dance
CALATA—an Italian town dance done in triple time
CARINOSA—Philippine dance of love
CEROC—a simplified version of modern jive dance
CHACONNE—a slow, solemn dance of Spanish or Moorish origin; also a popular social dance in 17-18th century France
CHULA—a traditional dance from Portugal and southern Brazil; also means beautiful in Spanish