France bars Breton baby name over an apostrophe

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France bars Breton baby name over an apostrophe

A new row has broken out between Brittany and French authorities after a Breton couple were barred from giving their baby their chosen name - because it had an apostrophe in it. The decision has been described as "intolerable linguistic discrimination".


Tensions are rising once again in Western France after a Breton couple were barred from naming their son Derc'hen.

The problem was not that the name was deemed provocative (which was the case when a couple tried to name their kid Jihad) or unsuitable and potentially damaging to the child (which was the case for the attempt to name a baby Nutella) but that it contained an apostrophe.

But while this name ban might sound ridiculous or even unreal, France's name police, in this case the Town Hall in Rennes and then state prosecutors, were only sticking to rules set in 2014.

The family, whose baby was born in August 2017, were told that a circular sent out on July 23rd that year banned the inclusion of apostrophes in names, which effectively ruled out a lot of traditional Breton names.

In the end the furious parents were told they had to drop the apostrophe and use the spelling Derchen instead of Derc'hen. 

They called upon the help of a Breton cultural association Skoazell Vreizh - Secours Breton in French (Breton Rescue in English) who believe it's the first time a name with the c'h - a combination widely used in Breton language - has been refused.

They have launched an appeal to the Town Hall at Rennes as well as the ministry of justice in Paris.

The case echoed that of baby Fañch. In September last year The Local reported how a French court banned a Breton couple from spelling their baby's name their chosen way because it contained a tilde, an "n" with a small sideways "s" above it - ñ.

The tilde symbol is commonly used in Spanish as well as the regional Breton language which is the same for the c'h.

Fañch is a name borne notably by two Breton writers, Fañch Peru and Fañch Broudig, and is the Breton version of the name François.

Speaking about the two cases a spokesperson for Skoazell Vreizh (Breton Rescue) said: "Two families who have freely chosen Breton names for their children are left embarrassed, face harassment and suffer intolerable linguistic discrimination."

Parents in France have often fallen foul of the rules regarding baby names.

Up until 1993 parents in France had to choose a name for their baby from a long list of acceptable "prenoms" laid out by authorities.

But the list was scrapped under President François Mitterand and French parents were given the liberty to be a little bit more inventive.

However courts can still ban names if they decide it is against the child's best interests. Names including Nutella, Fraise (Strawberry) and Manhattan have also fallen foul of the French name police in recent years.



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