Sunday, February 15, 2009

What's In A Name?

Whenever I introduce myself to French people I tell them the English pronunciation of my name. On several occasions this has led to confusion but nothing to dire. However, one day a Frenchman instructed me that I should introduce myself and pronounce my name in a manner consistent with the French pronunciation to a) make it easier for the French b) avoid any confusion.

I reflected on his remarks and I could understand his point. Listening to my Anglophone friends introduce themselves here in Paris I notice that they too use the French pronunciation of their names. My theory on this whole thing is *bleep* that. Whenever I encountered a French person in NYC they would always without fail introduce themselves using the French pronunciation of their name so why should I do otherwise now that I live in Paris?

The way I see it is my name is my name and if its a little difficult for a non-anglophone to understand or pronounce that's just too bad.


David said...

Well, it all depends what your name is. If it leads to too much confusion, yeah, it's not a bad idea to "Frenchize" your name a little (I'm thinking about this Australian guy I know whose name is Laurence and who's sick and tired of having French people telling him that it's a woman's name, so now, he goes by Laurent with non-Anglophones)

Now, if your name is not that confusing, there's no reason to change the pronunciation, as you mentioned, it's part of your identity.

For instance, when I lived in the US, I really dislike being called "David" the English way, it just didn't feel like it was me. Actually, I'd rather be called Dave as it was a nickname, so it didn't matter (especially because some of my French friends called me Dave, because I was the English speaker of the group).

So, yeah, I like to be called David (Dahveed) or Dave, but "Dayvid" doesn't sound like it's me, but I had (and still have) to bear being called such a thing.. That's life I guess.

Jennie said...

Yeah, I hate saying that my name is zheh-nee-fair, but whenever I tell people that my name is Jennifer, (american pronunciation) they can't understand it for some reason!

KEF said...

I have the same issue and used to introduce myself as "caaat-reeen" but don't do it anymore because that's not me!

My French friends DO call me by my "American" name and I love them for it.

L'Étrangère Americaine said...

It just bothers me that the French are so coddle when it comes to language and they feel the need to Frenchify everything.

Except of course the random English words that they use during business meetings.

David said...

You're not being fair here.
I just showed you how French people have the same trouble in the US and the way you guys use French words ("à la mode" or "sauté" anyone?) is as painful to hear as the way French people use some English words.

L'Étrangère Americaine said...

David nothing on this blog is really meant to be taken all that seriously.

David said...

My comments included. ;-)

Still, I gotta admit that it's one of my pet-peeve when Americans complain about something like this when they all do it without realizing it too, especially, the ludicrous of English words in the French language, especially in Paris. Believe me, it annoys me too (especially when after uttering said English word in a ludicrous way, the Parisian will look at me with pride, as if they were telling me "you must be happy, I'm trying to speak English like you do" and all I can give them is an embarrassed smile), but it's exactly the same when Americans misuse French words and think they're cool doing it (including some expats, and then it's a very embarrassed smile).

wcs said...

For some reason, I thought "Walt" would be hard for French people, so I would always tell my name as "Wal-tair," which I really don't like.

Then it hit me, they don't have any trouble with Walt Disney, so I now tell them my name is Walt, comme Walt Disney, and I always get a smile!

L'Étrangère Americaine said...

Walt, it's a good thing your name isn't Disney as I'm sure that might be a little more difficult for the French :)

Canedolia said...

When I first lived in France I always used the "French" version of my name, partly because that was what French people said and partly because I hate having to tordre la bouche to say English sounds in a French sentence. I stopped doing that, though, after person after person told me, "That's my grandmother's name!" My name is fairly old-fashioned in English, but not that bad, so now I use the English version, which at least has some kind of anglophone cool cachet attached to it!

Maria Teresa said...

I have the opposite problem, growing up in the States with a Basque surname: Maite. Now that I am in France I tell people my name and they don't ask how you spell it or how you pronounce it or otherwise struggle with it.

Anonymous said...

Technically, English speakers often use French words miscorrectly without having knowing of it. For example, English peasants at one time somehow got the idea that because "front" sounds as "fore", it therefore must mean "fore", which it actually means "brow". The true French word for "fore" would be "avant" or to be placed before would be "devant", "en front" would imply being on your forehead. Also, "flower" is a mispronunciation of "fleur". Also "entree" means a side dish, not the main course of a meal and "menu" means the list of food served daily, not the physical list which is "carte", seen in other Germanic languages as well ironically enough (for example, in Frisian, English's sister language, which I happen to speak, it's "kaart"). I think English folks should either use French derrived words correctly or go back to speaking Old English, and no, I don't mean Shakespeare. I mean Beowulf as in "Hwaet! We gardena in geardagum, þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon. Hu ða aeþelingas ellen fremedon!". I know, none of you speak Old English, but it is a good language to learn (even if merely for fun). I only kid, but it is a great pet peeve of mine to hear French words used wrongly. The Frisians, Dutch, and Germans also use French derrived words, but we use them properly! Some Anglo-French words are used correctly, however, such as "culture" (kultuer in Frisian), but so many are used wrongly that it drives me bonkers. Or maybe, all could speak Frysk or Nederlands. BTW, for those who wish to know, Frisian is spoken in Fryslan, a province of the Netherlands along the North Sea. All Francophiles should try to good French make. What thinks you?


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