How France's 'most embarrassing' baby name doesn't actually exist

Emma Pearson
Emma Pearson - [email protected]
How France's 'most embarrassing' baby name doesn't actually exist
What are you naming the baby? Photo: AFP

It's regularly trotted out as an embarrassing French baby name and we've heard plenty of reports of people claiming that their cousin's schoolmate's friend was called it.


The fact that some people call their children Clitorine in unwitting reference to the clitoris (which incidentally is the same word in French in case you were searching for it) seems to be quite widely accepted in France.

Except that they don't.

The data from French statistics body INSEE does not list it, neither does the Paris electoral roll or the register of deaths.

It seems that the nearest this has ever come to being a real name was in the title of a series of pornographic novels from the 1970s.

So how did it get started?

Well we can't find an exact source for this rumour, but Baptiste Coulmont, a professor of sociology at Université Paris 8 writing in French newspaper Le Monde, suggests that the weird name performs an important social function - namely sparing people embarrassment.

Stick with us here.

He says: "Discussions about baby names always present a small danger. 'Ah, is it a boy? Have you thought of a name? Anything but Arthur, I hope!'

"But the joke is over when you discover that they had indeed thought of Arthur for the little one. Embarrassing moment. 

"So you need a sure thing to discuss names. Clitorine is that sure value, the name that allows social interaction to continue quietly, without risk of embarrassment."
And even if you do stumble across a couple who want to name their new baby this, the chances are they won't be allowed to.
France has some rules about what names parents are allowed to choose and anything that is deemed against the child's best interest can be banned.
Over the years judges have vetoed Nutella and Renault among other bizarre parental choices.
The most popular baby names in France last year were Emma (an excellent choice) and Gabriel.
And if you're a fan of French urban legends - check out the one about the strawberry tart.


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