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Category: French names

eiffel

By Pamela Redmond Satran

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.

These names are widely used in contemporary France and might make exotic choices for a baby in Los Angeles or London.

girls

Amandine – The French Amanda, John Malkovich introduced this lovely name to the wider world when he used this for his now-grown daughter.

Apolline – The Apollo relative was used by J.K. Rowling for a Frenchified character.

Capucine – Once associated with a hypersexy French actress, this ancient name is newly chic.

Clemence – Actress Clemence Poesy has popularized this French version of our Clementine, pronounced clay-mahns.

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French Names: What’s chic now?

chicbaby

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.

We’ve blogged about modern French names a couple of times, but the uninitiated still think of French names as the now-tired Danielle and Nicole, or the even-tireder Jean and Jacques.

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.

Girls

Agathe
Amandine
Anais
Anouk
Apolline

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annette3

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.

OLD-ETTES:

Annette

Antoinette

Babette

Bernadette

Claudette

Colette

Georgette

Jeanette

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mardigras2

In this week’s dispatch, Abby Sandel of AppellationMountain uncovers a treasure trove of wonderfully unique names from the history of Mardi Gras.

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:

 GIRLS

Southern Doubles – Early days, plenty of Maids were listed as Lulu or Bessie.  Over the years, the listed names became more formal.

Bonny Lorette

Cherry Thalia

Constance Claire

Emmy Lou

Lee Logan

Maria Lisette

Marie Celeste

Mary Nell

Nancy Eugenie

Shawn Ruth

Family Surnames – While the widespread popularity of choices like Madison and Taylor is a recent phenomenon, Southern girls have worn family surnames for generations.

Hanton

Ingersoll

Lanier

Sedley

Townsend

Wilder

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dance5

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

BEGUINE—a rhythmic native dance of Martinique, famous here via the Cole Porter song Begin the Beguine

BLAIZE—a dance around a fire done in early Britain to mark the two solstices

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

CARIOCA—a version of the samba choreographed by Fred Astaire for a duet with Ginger Rogers in Flying Down to Rio

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

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