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The French baby names banned by law

France no longer has a list of acceptably French names that parents must pick from, but courts do have the power to ban certain names if they judge they will have an adverse effect on the little one's life. Here's a round-up of some of the names that have been refused over the years.

A nurse takes care of a newborn baby in France
A nurse takes care of a newborn baby in France - a country where courts can step in to stop parents giving silly names to their children. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

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.

Griezmann-Mbappé

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. 

Joyeux 

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”.

Patriste

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. 

Jihad 

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 

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. 

Mini-Cooper 

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. 

MJ

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. 

Prince-William 

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. 

Anal 

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.

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

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FRANCE EXPLAINED

‘The French have a taste for princes’ – Why British royals are so popular in France

The announcement of the death of Queen Elizabeth II has naturally caused widespread sadness and an outpouring of tributes in the UK, but also in France where the British royals have long been popular.

'The French have a taste for princes' - Why British royals are so popular in France

Perhaps the best known thing about French history is that they guillotined their own royals back in 1793. There were a couple of brief returns to monarchy, plus a self-crowned Emperor, but these days France is a firmly republican country.

But that doesn’t stop the French from showing huge interest in, and affection for, the royals on the other side of the English Channel.

In addition to fulsome tributes from president Emmanuel Macron and other high profile figures in France, the Union Jack was added to the flags outside the president’s Elysée Palace and the lights on the Eiffel Tower were turned off on Thursday night after the announcement of the death of the Queen, at the age of 96.

French TV channels on Thursday afternoon showed rolling news updates from the UK, while TV historian Stéphane Bern presented a specially recorded tribute programme to the Queen.

On Friday, three of France’s daily newspapers made the royal death their front page story, with Le Parisien using the headline Nous l’avons tant aimée (we loved her so much), Le Figaro saying L’adieu à la reine (farewell to the queen) and Libération opting for La peine d’angleterre (England’s pain, but also a pun on La reine d’angleterre).

But this wasn’t a one-time event sparked by the death of such a long-reigning and much-loved figure, royal fever frequently strikes France, especially during royal weddings. 

In 2021, 6 million people in France watched the funeral of Prince Phillip, 4 million watched the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and the royal weddings of princes William and Harry attracted 9 and 8 million French viewers respectively.

Charles de Gaulle once remarked: “The French have a taste for princes, but they will always look abroad”.

French presidents, such as de Gaulle, are both the political leader of the country and the head of state, and have quite a few semi-monarchical trappings to the role, such as accommodation in the very grand Elysée Palace.

Emmanuel Macron, who began his presidency styling himself as an almost royal figure before being forced by public pressure to adopt a more down-to-earth governing style, called the French “a nation of regicidal monarchists” – yearning for a strong leader yet always keen to tear them down.  

One of his predecessors, François Mitterand, also remarked on this difficulty, reportedly saying in 1984: “I must be both Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth.”

Although the monarchy is far from an uncontroversial subject in the UK, where a significant portion of the population believe that the royals should have no official role, in France they are seen as a force for unity.

TV presenter Stéphane Bern, himself an ardent royalist, wrote a special essay in April 2022, to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. He said: “How can we explain this French infatuation with everything related to the British monarchy Nostalgia of the sans-culottes [French revolutionaries] for the monarchic splendor? Curiosity for this unchanging institution which is not afraid to conjugate secular rites in the present? Or a formidable symbolic force that gives hope to an entire people, who believe themselves invincible as long as the queen (or king) watches over them?

“How many events in our country are still capable of bringing crowds together, across political divides, religious beliefs or social affiliations? Apart from the football World Cup, when France wins, moments of national communion are rare and, even on July 14th [France’s Fête nationale] the principle of unity does not always prevail.

“If the British royal family is so popular in France, it is because it embodies the symbolic power capable of bringing together an entire people and of which we feel orphaned. The crown, which unites in diversity, seems to allow the British to find themselves and to commune around the timeless values of their nation.

“Unconsciously, there must be a kind of nostalgia, tinged with a sense of guilt, in this look of admiration and envy.”

French journalist Nicolas Domenach, speaking to The Local during the royal wedding celebrations in 2018, also emphasised the sense of unity, saying: “English royalty serves to maintain the unity of the country. It has immense symbolic power, but no concrete power.

“This monarchical permanence in a democracy fascinates us because we cut off the head of our king and our queen.

“We are proud to have accomplished our Revolution, but we maintain a nostalgia, if not a remorse.”

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