20th November 2008

That woman with the je ne sais quoi - you know, Carla la magnifique - has been in the news again. The imminent arrival in the White House of someone with an African Muslim name has prompted a new campaign for racial integration, supported by the President's wife.
Under the Obama (or Bob the Builder!) slogan "oui, nous pouvons" (yes we can), the manifesto points to the "cruel contrast" between France's racially divided society and the lesson of inclusion that came from the US. Bruni says that she loves multi-ethnic France and that it is time to "help the elite to change". The Obama election has spurred young descendants of non-white immigrants to drop their given names - which their parents gave them to help them integrate - and claim new ones from their Arab/African backgrounds.
Names are a serious matter in France. Until a reform in 1992, parents could only register their babies with prénoms that were on an official list. Even now, to change a first name, you have to file a request with the local prosecutor's office and often argue your case before a judge. But now the trend in which Louis, Laurent or Marie want to become Abdel, Said or Rachida has connotations directly contrary to the French desire for integration of all immigrant groups.
And my opinion? If you choose to live in a different country from your own, do as the Romans do.

1 comment:

Richard said...

My name is George. When I was growing up in the United States the only spelling I knew was George. In the last few years I have been asked Is that the English or the Spanish spelling? Today some simply assume the Spanish spelling. The burden of correcting it falls on me.My name is pronounced the same but the spelling is very different, and yes it matters to me.