Thursday, March 16, 2006

What's in a name?

It's not one for France. Unless you fib:

...the highest administrative court in France ruled that Damien Bairi has the right to change his surname to escape prejudice in French society -- to D'Artagnan.

The State Council threw out the objections of the Company of Musketeers, self-appointed guardians of the good name of the swashbuckling 17th-century hero made famous in Alexandre Dumas's novel The Three Musketeers.

Under French law, citizens can change names only if they prove they have suffered disadvantage.

....Mr Bairi, 29, told the court he wanted one of France's proudest surnames because it was also the surname of the maternal grandmother who cared for him in infancy.

But Aymeri de Montesquiou Fezensac d'Artagnan, a French senator and president of the Company of Musketeers, denounced the officer as unfit for such a glorious name.

The policeman's grandmother, who died last year, was not a member of the French aristocracy, Senator de Montesquiou Fezensac d'Artagnan argued. She spelt her name with a capital "D", whereas the French nobility always used a small "d", his spokeswoman said.

....But the police officer, who lives outside Paris, said: "I was very shocked that someone who is a member of the French parliament should take action against me like this. I thought it was deplorable.

"All I wanted to do was adopt my maternal grandmother's name because she was the person I felt closest to," he said. "I don't want to exploit the d'Artagnan name in any way, and I certainly don't want to pretend I'm an aristocrat.

"The only advantage is that everyone now remembers my name when I tell them I'm called Monsieur D'Artagnan."

He described himself as "blue-eyed" European with a north African name resulting from his
family's emigration to Algeria a century ago.

"The truth is I've never suffered discrimination myself, although that was the legal argument used in court," he said.

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