‘Patriotic’ French baby names: The latest crazy row in France

What’s a patriotic name for a French baby girl? Joan? Marie? Brigitte? Not Zohra, according to a journalist who has stirred up France’s latest row over identities.

'Patriotic' French baby names: The latest crazy row in France
Photo: AFP

How French should French baby names be?

That’s the latest row in France that’s been provoked by a notorious provocateur who launched a fairly unprovoked attack on a French politician over her choice of baby name.

Eric Zemmour (more about him later) was outraged that former justice minister Rachida Dati chose to name her child Zohra – a name common in the Arabic world and therefore not at all an outrageous choice for Dati, who is French born but whose parents were from North Africa.

“I find it outrageous and I told her,” Zemmour told a French TV show.

“I consider that by giving Muslim first names, you are refusing to accept the history of France,”he added.

Presumably Zemmour would have been far happier if the politician had named her daughter Joan after Joan of Arc or Marie after Marie Antoinette or even Marie Curie, or even more recent figures in French history like Simone (de Beauvoir) or Brigitte (Bardot). Perhaps even Juliette (Binoche) Carla (Bruni) or yes of course Marine or Marion (Le Pen).

(Rachida Dati. AFP)

Zemmour, who has said the far right National Front leader Marine Le Pen was not far enough to the right, called for a return to the days when French parents had to choose the names of the new-borns from a list of classic French 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.

Although some of the more original baby names have been banned in recent years including Nutella and Manhattan, no judge has deemed it necessary to ban Zohra.

For her part Dati, the current mayor of the 7th arrondissement in Paris, hit back at Zemmour suggesting he needed help.

(Eric Zemmour right. AFP)

“He’s pathological. He needs to go and seek medical help,” she said.

“Do you find it scandalous to give your mother's name to your children?” she asked, in a vigorous defence of her choice of name.

“I loved my mother. I have a little girl, and I called her after my mother. Like millions of French people do every day.”

Dati may have a point about Zemmour.

The expression “he could start a fight in an empty room” could have been invented for the French author and journalist turned polemicist, turned almighty agitator.

Controversy follows Zemmour wherever he goes, largely thanks to his well-known Islamophobic and anti-Immigrant views, not to mention accusations of sexism and homophobia.

Indeed he was named number 1 in The Local’s list of “French who bash France” and was convicted last year of hate speech towards Muslims.

So if you want to give your baby boy a good patriotic French name, perhaps Eric is not the best choice. 

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