Re: I18n issue: French family names with "de"

From: Alain LaBont\i\ (
Date: Fri Oct 23 1998 - 01:37:11 EDT

A 14:08 98-10-22 -0700, John Cowan a écrit :
>IIRC, monosyllabic names always keep the "de" (Charles de Gaulle,
>de Gaulle), but longer names drop it when there is no prenom
>(Alexis de Tocqueville, Tocqueville). "D'" is never dropped.
>Is this correct current usage? Is it correct historical usage?

[Alain] :
Monosyllabic names? What do you mean?

De Gaulle is by no means monosyllabic in French (Gaulle it self is composed
of 2 syllables).

There is a more fundamental rule. Noble names have a small "d" in "de",
which is more fuzzily integrated into the name itself. "De Gaulle" was not
of noble origin, so the "De" is always capitalized (although for "de
Gaulle" there has been exceptions in quoting, he has been nobilized by his
"grandeur", de facto, by many people) and part of his name.

"de Tocqueville", if of noble origin, then never takes an upper case, and
it is less clear that the "d" is part of the name itself. Usage is fuzzy.
As there is also a rule that says that the first letter of a sentence is a
capital letter, it is not clear also that the "d" would not be capitalized
in this case. I would personaly avoid the problem in not using the "de" in
this case, for example, in order to introduce confusion on this information
about the noble origin, although nowadays this is purely cosmetic when
nobility has been abolished in most French-speaking countries.

Alain LaBonté
Tel Aviv

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