Boulangerie Extraordinaire

I mentioned this name on the off-hand many posts ago, but we’re now returning to it because I’ve been slightly obsessing over the wonderfulness of the name all week. I don’t suppose anyone else has it that they go to sleep each night with a particularly name rolling around in their head? I’ve been stuck on this name for several nights now and have declared it a sign.

This one was a fun one to research because I’ve had to trawl through French language sites for information, which is always a fun test for me. Yes, I could have switched on my Google Translate function-y thingie on my browser, but I find the finished translation clunky and difficult to comprehend. In any case, reading has always been my strongest skill in French.

So, what is the lure of the name? Lénaïg’s major attraction for some may be her similarity to continental superstar Lena. Indeed, the names are interrelated, since Lena is the Scandinavian, Polish and German short form of Helena – although she’s also used as a short form of Magdalena. Lena is also the name of a Siberian river, which is where the name Lenin was coined. In other languages, the name Lena has a variety of meanings, including:

  • young bee in Sotho
  • breath, energy in Italian
  • sound asleep in Malay
  • yellow in Hawaiian

The connection to Lénaïg is that she too has roots in the Helen family, as she’s a Breton form of the name Helen. The ig part of a Breton name is diminuative/affectionate, thus Lénaïg means little HelenIt’s like naming your child Enora, and calling her NorigOr indeed giving the nickname Sophyline to your sister Sophie, as I have done.

The name Helen herself is stuck in what we could dub middle-aged syndrome, i.e. she’s seen as a little too frumpy for a modern baby, whereas sister Helena is all the rage. I could see this swapping around in the years to come, which is an exciting prospect. In Britain, St. Helen was believed to be the daughter of Old King Cole, as in the rhyme from my childhood that I can recite even to this day

Old King Cole was a merry old soul

And a merry old soul was he…

And so forth.

The meaning of the name Helen is usually taken to be from Greek and means torch, but there are other theories. It is possible that the name is related to Selene, which comes from Greek and means moon. However, this is all speculation and the torch meaning has been linked to the name since days gone by.

Now, the pronunciation of the name is interesting, you could say the final sound with a k sound or a g sound. The latter is the one I use because that’s how the Lénaïg I know pronounces her name, thus the aig part is roughly said how we would say it in the name Craig. However, in Breton, the ig pronunciation is usually pronounced ic, but it’s such an uncommon name that getting the pronunciation right is not a be all and end all of the name.

I’d say this name is a quirky little choice from a pretty area in France, but the elephant in the room is the question of the accents on the name, so let’s address that.

It may interest you to know that whilst the registry office in England&Wales recognises a dash in a name, i.e. Ellie-May, it puts up more of a fight when it comes to accents – and why not? Accents don’t really exist in words in English, unless of course, we nicked the word from another language without bothering to drop the accents; I’m thinking maybe café is a good example.

All this means that if you were going to register little Lénaïg, in some countries she’d become Lenaig. It’s also worth noting that most English keyboards don’t easily type out accents – I’ve only ever figured out how to do an acute accent by holding alt gr and hitting the appropriate vowel key.

The basics is that until relatively recently when you registered a newborn in England&Wales, the entry was handwritten so the accent was taken with open arms, and that’s how my friend’s Dad managed to register her accidentally at Chloé rather than Chloë. However, like many things in life it’s all gone onto computers now. This is how an Irish friend of mine now has a British passport claiming her name is Marie, not Maire – someone at the passport office mistyped her name.

Prior to the change, the accent wouldn’t have appeared on a British passport anyway, most likely for the same reason as above, i.e. the British keyboards can’t take it. It is worth noting that in French when a letter is capitalised the accent is often dropped and have you ever seen a British passport? The details are printed in block capitals. This is now also the case for birth certificates, which were once handwritten records. In short, yes accents can be registered, but it will cause likely cause issues when it comes to legal documents.

Unless you live in France, of course.

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