EXPLAINED: Is your name ‘French enough’ for France?

A new web tool allows people living in France to check if their first name is 'French enough' and suggests a Francophone alternative for people with unacceptably foreign names.

EXPLAINED: Is your name 'French enough' for France?
Sure, they look pretty French, but are their names acceptably Francophone? Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

The site has been set up as a joke response to the suggestion by far right pundit – and possible presidential candidate – Eric Zemmour that so-called “non-French” first names should be banned.

His suggestion is a fairly common theme among the far right and it’s not a new obsession for Zemmour, who back in 2016 informed former justice minister Rachida Dati that it was “outrageous” of her to name her new baby Zohra. 

But now a French web developer has set up a name generator tool to mock Zemmour’s suggestion.

Vite Mon Prenom offers a one-click test to see if your name is “French enough” under a law originally passed in 1803 that obliged parents to choose a name for their baby from among a list of historically French names.

The site’s name is a tribute to the hugely popular Vite Ma Dose online tool that allowed people to find appointments near them for Covid vaccinations, but it is not believed to be connected to Vite Ma Dose’s creator Guillaume Rozier.

As well as telling you whether your name is acceptably French, the site suggests an alternative if you are too foreign.

Therefore William becomes Guillaume and Ben becomes Jean.

French football legend Zinedine Zidane would become Bernadin according to the site’s suggestion, while Sylvain (Kylian) Mbappé would be taking penalties for France in the future.

READ ALSO The 6 boys names that mean something very different in French

Before you take its suggestion too literally however, be aware that the name generator does not seem to consider your gender – therefore Britney becomes Brice, more usually a man’s name, while Yann becomes Anne.

Perhaps the most famous ‘non French’ name of all, Kévin (which even inspired its own phrase) can stay, however, according to Vite Mon Prenom, it accords with the 1803 law.

By Thursday lunchtime, more than 1 million people had tested their name on the site – which can be found here.

Until 1993, French parents had to choose a name for their baby from the long list of names deemed ‘acceptable’ by authorities.

That rule was later scrapped, but the courts can still block a name if they deem it against the best interests of the child – baby Nutella, baby Fraise (strawberry) and baby Deamon have all had a name change after the courts barred their names.

There is also a provision within the existing law for people applying for French citizenship to ‘Frenchify’ their names, either by altering spelling or translating their name into French – here’s how.

READ ALSO The list of baby names that French authorities won’t allow

Member comments

  1. I fear that my comment on the likes of Zemmour, if posted, would be rejected as too offensive. Brexit and the anti-vax campaigns have already proved that much of the population prefer to live in the dark ages, so this sort of populist nonsense is not really surprising – but such a disappointment.

  2. Fascinating – I though my name was French enough if I added an accent, but apparently I need to change (and my sex) to Boris….

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


France proposes getting rid of penalties for ‘minor’ speeding offences

The French government is considering changing speeding laws so that drivers will not lose points on their licence if they are caught going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

France proposes getting rid of penalties for 'minor' speeding offences

France’s Interior Ministry is considering changing its current rules for minor speeding violations – proposing getting rid of the penalty for drivers who only violate the rule by going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

The Ministry has not laid out a timeline for when this could come into effect, but they said they are currently in the preliminary stages of studying how the change could be carried out.

“The fine of course remains,” said the Interior Ministry to French daily Le Parisien.

That is to say you can still be fined for going five kilometres over the speed limit, but there might not be any more lost points for driving a couple kilometres over the posted limit. 

READ ALSO These are the offences that can cost you points on your driving licence

Of the 13 million speeding tickets issued each year in France, 58 percent are for speeding violations of less than 5 km per hour over the limit, with many coming from automated radar machines.

How does the current rule work?

The rule itself is already a bit flexible, depending on where the speeding violation occurs.

If the violation happens in an urban area or low-speed zone (under 50 km per hour limit), then it is considered a 4th class offence, which involves a fixed fine of €135. Drivers can also lose a point on their licences as a penalty for this offence. 

Whereas, on highways and high-speed roads, the consequences of speeding by 5 km per hour are less severe. The offence is only considered 3rd class, which means the fixed fine is €68. There is still the possibility of losing a point on your licence, however. 

How do people feel about this?

Pierre Chasseray, a representative from the organisation “40 Millions d’Automobilistes,” thinks the government should do away with all penalties for minor speeding offences, including fines. He told French daily Le Parisien that this is only a “first step.”

Meanwhile, others are concerned that the move to get rid of points-deductions could end up encouraging people to speed, as they’ll think there is no longer any consequence.

To avoid being accused of carelessness, France’s Interior Ministry is also promising to become “firmer” with regards to people who use other people’s licences in order to get out of losing points – say by sending their spouse’s or grandmother’s instead of their own after being caught speeding. The Interior Ministry plans to digitalise license and registration in an effort to combat this. 

Ultimately, if you are worried about running out of points on your licence, there are still ways to recover them.

You can recover your points after six months of driving without committing any other offences, and there are also awareness training courses that allow you to gain your points back. It should be noted, however, that these trainings typically cost between €150 and €250, and they do not allow you to regain more than four points.