The playground is once again experiencing its hubbub. We can guess, passing near the school, the chases, the games, the laughter. We grab in the flight bits of exchanges and cries. ” Potato ! “,” Glue pot! – this morning, two words emerge emphatically from the background noise. They cater to kids and make up nicknames, it’s easy to understand.
Our grandchildren confirm: yes, yes, some of their friends refer to each other other than by their first name. There is “Le Gitan” and “La crotte”, but also “Lupine” and then “Bouboule”. And again “Moumou” and “L’asticot”.
It has always existed. The proof: the 1,500 diminutives, nicknames or nicknames that, out of curiosity, I collected for a few years – four years of carving! – in the funeral notices of daily newspapers in my region.
There is no age for little names
There is no age to bear or support these little names which are not registered in the civil status. The dean listed: a certain Zoulou, deceased at 108 years old, son of a seamstress and a slate maker, as specified in the obituary. The youngest: Félicien, said Fifi, eleven years old, who, the newspaper said, had unearthed his grandfather’s rifle. We have a feeling for the rest …
Why so many nicknames? Because the official first name seemed old-fashioned? This is true for the older ones. Jules (before being in vogue again) becomes Gilles. Expedit calls himself Alex. Or it is a question of francizing a first name: Robert, Jacky or Max will replace Mohamed, Seghir or Vujadin, while Thi Nung turns into Marcelle. Each time, the funeral notice mentions the two names.
→ READ. “The first name has become detached from the civil identity to become a personal referent”
Many of these nicknames relate to the profession, the geographical origin or the morphology. Doudou l’Antillais, Quinquin or Ti’Pol come together with more stigmatizing names: Nain-nain, P’tite Patte or the Grand Julien, or even Grand Cou. The character inspires other nicknames. I found Douce, Terreur or le Général but also La Gaffe and Motus.
Not always easy to wear
The characters of films or cartoons also give birth to a lot of small names: formerly Popeye, Zorro, Snowy … Perhaps it will be the same with the TV series, tomorrow. Others cannot be explained – or else we would have to question the immediate entourage: why this one was called Napoleon all his life, or Soyuz, and this other Majesty, and even Maharajah for another Again ?
These nicknames will not always have been easy to wear. Because they are mocking or close to caricature. Certain children or teenagers – even today – surely suffer from it. Hearing yourself call Minus from elementary school or college, hard, hard!
→ READ. What is the influence of first names on a child?
My little collection shows it, however: family and friends sometimes want to mention in the obituary the nickname that the deceased had during his lifetime. Obviously not out of derision, but to locate the dear deceased in his history and make him recognize by those who knew him by this nickname rather than by his first name or his surname. This little name, we then take it with us to the afterlife. Under the sign of banter, complicity and, despite everything, a kind of tenderness.