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Nicknames in France

nicknames in France

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Louis the Stammerer who was the King of Aquitaine and later King of the Franks. He was born 1st November 846 and died in 879.

It made me think about nicknames, the little names that people get called – sometimes affectionate and sometimes not.

My own nickname as a child was “mushroom” for two reasons, first I was quite short and secondly I believed everything I was told and so my friends said I grew up in BS. I must say that my family took great pains to tell me fantastical stories to see how far they could go and I was very young at the time. I stopped believing everything I was told eventually and am these days fairly cynical, I didn’t grow much more though. I’m still vertically challenged but have always believed the best things come in small packages!

My auntie Pauline was called “waterworks” because she was a bit of a sniveller as a child. I had another auntie called “Pinnochio” so I think I got off relatively lightly with “mushroom” as a family nickname.

At school I was called “Joe 90”. “Joe 90” was a glasses-wearing puppet on TV – geeky before being a geek was trendy. In the TV series Joe 90 was a 9 year old schoolboy/spy/genius – he wore really thick glasses and was spun round in a booth to have intelligence transferred into his brain by his scientist dad. Yes, I know I’m a girl but it was the glasses that did it – my horrible National Health issued glasses that looked like they’d  been made from bottle bottoms. Being spun round in the playground in those suckers – ah happy days…

Neither of my nicknames are anywhere near as much fun as some of those I came across when reading about Louis the Stammerer (French: Louis le Bègue). Adding a description to the names of aristocracy was quite common and they certainly add something to our imagination of what those people must have been like.

Charles the Bald was Louis the Stammer’s Dad, Charles the Simple was his son and one of his friends was Wilfred the Hairy.

While I was reading about Louis the Stammerer I discovered most Monarchs were called The Just, The Fair, The Tall – quite sensible names like that, but I did come across Louis XI – The Universal Spider (I kid you not though he was also known as Louis the Cunning) thanks to his penchant for spinning a web of intrigue everywhere he went!

My neighbours in my little village in rural France have nicknames for each other – but I daren’t repeat them here as most of them are a bit suspect and involve the words “fou” (crazy) or are a play on their names – that’s as far as I’m going. I suspect my own nickname amongst the villagers involves the word “merde” due to the incident involving my fosse septique shortly after I moved here. Though it could be “fou Anglaise” since everyone thinks I was crazy to buy such a run-down old house with so much work to do!

Did you know that France itself has a sort of nickname? I went to a historic fort recently near Lille and the lady who lives there was dressed as “Marianne”. I was told that Marianne is the name given to France as a representation of the French Republic, she is the symbol of womanhood and represents democracy. You may know her from the iconic Eugene Delacroix painting “La Liberté guidant le peuple” (“Liberty leading the People” – which currently hangs in the Louvre Lens). If you know the painting I must add that the lady in Lille was in full costume but had her coat firmly done up!

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