Up until 1993 parents in France had to choose a name for their baby from a long list of acceptable prénoms 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 the law currently states that a court can still ban names if they decide it is against the child’s best interests.
The national statistics body INSEE publishes an annual list of the most popular baby names, but yearly lists of rejected names are not provided.
However, court decisions are often publicised when parents have been ordered to pick a different name for their new arrival.
Here’s a collection of some of those that have been rejected in recent years.
In 2019 football loving couple tried to name their son Griezmann-Mbappé, a neologism of Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappé who both play for France. The court turned down the request and the child was eventually named Dany. In a separate case, CR7 – a nickname used for Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo – was also rejected by a French court.
Clitorine and Vagina
French media report that these names were refused by courts in 2019. It is not hard to see why.
In October 2006, a Montpellier court wasn’t happy about a child having the name Joyeaux (happy). It remains unclear if the child was named after the cheeriest character in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but either way, the court slammed the decision, stating that the name was rejected due its “fantastical, almost ridiculous nature, that could create difficulties and actual embarrassment for the child”.
From the other end of the emotional spectrum, Patriste was also barred. When said slowly, this word could be taken to mean pas triste (not sad). This name has been struck down by a French court.
Nutella and Fraise
Nutella and Fraise (Strawberry) have both been turned down as names in France. Why? Because judges thought children with these names would be mocked as they grew up.
Some fruit-related names are allowed, however, and even quite common like Clémentine.
In 2018, as France was reeling from years of deadly terror attacks that had taken place under the Hollande administration, a court in Dijon ruled against parents who wanted to name their child Jihad.
Mohamed Merah was a terrorist killed in a standoff with French police after murdering seven people in southwestern France in 2012. When a couple tried to give their child the same name, a court struck it down, saying: “We consider that this would pose difficulties for the child and bring prejudices against him.”
It is unclear whether the name was intended as a tribute to the terrorist or not.
The High Court of Perpignan ruled that Mini-Cooper was not a suitable name for a baby girl in 2015, ordering the parents to choose a more “classic” name.
In 2010, two ultra Michael Jackson fans named their baby MJ. The courts didn’t think the idea was such a Thriller and told the parents to Beat It [Sorry, Ed]. The parents might have had more luck with Billie Jean.
The Duke of Cambridge may not be a particularly inspiring figure for many people in the UK, but Queen Elizabeth’s grandson certainly appears to have a number of fans in France. However, a Perpignan court ruled that Prince-William was not an acceptable name of a baby boy.
As far as we know, no-one has ever attempted to name their child this. However a lawyer working at the Paris appeals court has listed a range of names on his website, which are best to avoid if you don’t want to have to change it later. Anal, he said, “simply cannot pass”.
Thanks for the tip, Maître.
If far-right TV pundit Eric Zemmour wins the 2022 election this system could change, as he has said he is in favour of returning to a list of ‘French only’ first names for babies. Check the name generator below to see if yours would pass muster.