French authorities seek to ban baby girl’s very nice name

Posted in Baby Names.

In confusing news from France, a couple are being dragged to court as authorities have deemed their baby girl’s name inappropriate.

“Risk of gender confusion”

The little girl was to be called Liam, but in February the public prosecutor stepped in asserting that this name “would be likely to create a risk of gender confusion” and would be “therefore contrary to the interest of the child and could harm her in her social relations”. Hm. 

France seems to have some pretty bonkers ideas about gender (and LGBTIQ rights and consent and body image), and this case serves to highlight some Frenchy misunderstandings about gender.  

Liam is usually used as a boy’s name, and is the Irish short form of William. That said, it’s actually a very pretty name, and it’s not a stretch to apply it to any cute baby. There are plenty of examples of names that don’t obviously denote gender and are still lovely: Sean, Bailey, Cameron, Drew, Dylan, Reese, Shannon, Sydney, Taylor … and that’s just for starters.

The case against Liam

It seems this mum and dad – who are from Morbihan in the north west region of Brittany – had already been flagged by the powers-that-be when they tried to register their third child’s name the day after her birth. The mother in question was advised to give her daughter a more feminine middle name then (which has not been revealed publicly). Things have now escalated to a formal legal stoush over her first name, too.

Interestingly, the prosecutor has used the likes of Liam Gallagher (of Oasis) and Liam Neeson as arguments against the wee girl’s name. He’s requested the judge ban the first name – Liam – and force the parents to give “the child another name chosen by the parents and, failing that, by the judge.”

The parents have engaged a lawyer and postponed their baby’s baptism as they await a trial date.
The French are pretty serious about baby names and what’s acceptable. Up until 1993, mums and dads had to choose from an official list of acceptable baby names. Then President François Mitterand scrapped the list, but the French authorities still keep a watchful eye on what parents are naming their tots – and continue to step in.

French rules 

Officially, the baby naming rules in France include the following:

1. The first name must be written in French and “only the Roman alphabet can be used and that the only accepted accents are the dots, umlauts (¨), accents and cedillas belonging to the vowels and consonants authorized by the French language”.

Recently a family wanted to call their baby Fañch and that was overruled. Same deal with Derc’hen which was said to court “intolerable linguistic discrimination”.

2. The first name must not be “contrary to the best interests of the child”.

This meant that Mégane Renault, Nutella, Manhattan, Strawberry, Zigzag, Deamon, MJ and Joyeaux were all nixed by the authorities. A child with the last name of one parent can’t have the other parent’s last name as a first name. #confusing 

We’ll be following Liam’s story with interest.


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