Ariel, Aureile, Aurlie, Lorelei, Aurelia. I’ve been all these and more since I moved to the UK. Having a French name is not easy here. My name is Aurélie and I constantly have to spell it out. Not to mention my last name: Thérézien, no one ever gets it right, and can we blame them? (This is from Brittany by the way, a northwestern region of France I am proud of!). For a long time, I didn’t like my first name. I thought it was too classic, too boring, too ordinary.
My name was supposed to be Sophie but my mum changed her mind for a name that was less common at the time (I’m surrounded by Sophies in the office so thank you for that!). 1986: it boomed! Aurélies everywhere, five just in my classroom in high school! So much for feeling special. We had to find nicknames for everyone, but more about that later.
My name is of Latin origin and means gold (Aurum). So I have a golden name but no one here can pronounce it right. No one but the hundreds of thousands of French people living in London obviously. It also means “dawn” in Greek, funnily enough, I can’t say I am a morning person.
So I never really liked my name. Maybe because of the millions of Aurélies out there? Or maybe it was my mum’s tone of voice when she would call me. She would always call me by pet names (“flea”, “duck”, “rabbit” (this is a French thing…), and the list of animal names continues) unless she was mad at me, then she would call me “Au-ré-lie”, oh oh.
But I wasn’t Aurélie for long. There came the teenage years, where other kids would twist your last name into something funny. In that regard, my last name was a piece of cake for them: in Thérézien, you have “Therez”, and that is a super funny one in France! You could say it’s an old maid’s name. Also famous for sex jokes and an iconic character in the French comedy called “Le père Noël est une ordure” (literally: “Santa Claus is a bastard”). Let me find an English equivalent… how about Gertrude? You see what I mean now? (Please don’t be offended if your name is Gertrude!)
The worst part is that I actually liked it. It started when I was 14 and some of my closest friends still call me that. This nickname is close to their heart for some reason. My brother wasn’t too happy about it. Can you imagine, he fought against this nickname with all his pride when he was a teen, and then I ruin everything, letting everyone call me Therez.
This name had such an impact on me. Everyone would call me that, and many people would actually think that it was my name, saying things like “Is this really her name? Poor girl…”. Laughing out loud. I even heard my philosophy teacher call me that in class (the kind of teacher who would give me a cigarette at the break!). And Therez derived into 13, because it sounds similar in French and symbolizes bad luck. Of course it was a joke, but it stuck too! I didn’t matter as long as I was no longer the generic, all-too-common Aurélie.
Then there was uni. Moved towns, my best friends and I grew apart for a while, and I was Aurélie again. A very sad and cold Aurélie. This is also when my long-term relationship started and I became “babe” to my boyfriend. Changing my identity once again.
Years passed by. I moved to Paris, then London, where I became Aurélie again. A brand new one. Funny fact, I started to like my name. Here in London, it is not so ordinary; people ask about it and even find it beautiful (when they actually get it!). Of course, I never know how to say it when I speak English, and I always give a fake name when getting a toastie at Eat (“What’s your name?” – “Lili”; much simpler, don’t you think?). Working in languages, I met my lovely Frenchies at work (the “Sophies”) who call me Auré. I had never been called Auré before, it’s like being born again.
“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.” – W.C. Fields
Bottom line is: I think I like my name after all. Very much. Thank you mum & dad for the lovely gift!
This article is part of the weekly writing challenge:
I also found this article from the Guardian to be funny and so very true: