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L’inferno dei nomi nella commedia francese. Le Prénom

Richard Brütting


This paper looks at the play, and film, Le Prénom (What’s in a Name?), with special reference to the ‘innocence’ of anthroponyms: friends and relatives are gathered to discuss the name to be given to a baby boy about to be born. His father proposes Adolphe, as this happens to be the name of his favourite romantic hero, but one of his friends thinks he means Adolf, and associates it with «Hitler». This immediately provokes a highly emotional, even violent dispute, during which various other names are suggested and rejected. Name-giving conflicts are very frequent in literature, such as for example, the biblical name John, and first names in Madame Bovary and in Sibylle Lewitscharoff’s novel Montgomery. In Le Prénom there are three types of «problematic» names: ridiculous (Myrtille, Apollin), offensive (Prune, Reine) and «infected names» (Adolf, Benito). «Infected» means that oncenoble denominations, such as Adolf, have lost their innocence due to the actions of one, or more, of their bearers. In his conclusion, the author discusses the pragmatic functions and uses of names, and the arguments in favour of name changing, and explains the reasons for conflicts over names.

Parole chiave

name-giving conflicts; problematic first names as Adolf; pragmatic functions of names; legal aspects of anthroponyms.

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