July 25, 2021

People’s first name: Marie-Anne or confusion

OAll have, I think, experienced a first name confusion. Getting tangled up with a first name happens to us, and we forget it. But being the object of confusion is remembered a little more. I can no longer count the times I have been decked out with a “John the Baptist”. Decked out! (do you feel annoyance?)

But this is nothing in the face of the torture of linguist Marie-Anne Paveau. In “Heurs et misheurs d’un nom”, she remembers the transformations of which her identity is permanently the object. It becomes, on plane tickets, e-mail headers, and even on a credit card issued by her bank, “Anne-Marie” or “Marianne”. It must then request rectification.

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“It is a problem of frequency”, she writes. Marie-Anne is too rare, and “Appears to be counter-intuitive compared to the frequent Anne-Marie”. And a question of exposure: those close to Marie-Anne (or Baptiste), repeatedly exposed to this first name, even globally rare, will make fewer mistakes. And as far as I’m concerned, it comes down to a question of age: the youngest, more exposed to a Baptist now more frequent than John the Baptist, are not mistaken.

Marwan becomes Marianne

Marie-Anne’s daily life is then made up of anticipations and negotiations, when others have to write her first name. He must politely remind him that his first name is not simple. It “Draw the formula in two words, with a hyphen » to avoid the “oh yes damn-erasure-correction” episode. My anticipation is a little different: I systematically spell the first three letters « Baptiste, B, A, P… », to avoid adding the Jean and forgetting the “silent p”.

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My sociologist colleague Marwan Mohammed has other anticipations: avoid confusion with his namesake Marwan Muhammad, and specify that his first name is not Marouane, and his name is not Mohamed. But “With a w and two m in the name” was not enough. When he was invited in mid-March on Europe 1, the radio site proudly announced the arrival of… Marianne Mohammed.

Baptiste Coulmont is professor of sociology at the Ecole normale supérieure Paris-Saclay, author of “Sociologie des prénoms” (La Découverte, 2014, 130 p., 10 €) and, with Pierre Mercklé, of “Why top-models do not smile . Sociological chronicles ”(Presses des Mines, 2020, 184 p., € 29).

http://coulmont.com/