Mademoiselles and Bells

My mum and dad 60 years ago

It’s official. A circular from the Prime Minister’s office yesterday, 21st February, has decreed that the term Mademoiselle (Miss) is to be phased out of official documentation. Women no longer have to pinpoint their marital status. France has never had an equivalent of Ms so it’s always been a choice between Madame or Mademoiselle. (Men have only ever had the choice of Monsieur.) However, feminist groups such as Osez le feminisme  and Chiennes de garde are a little suspicious. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realise that this has happened all of a sudden just before la Presidentielle (presidential elections). Is it just vote grabbing, or is it kosher? We’ll have to wait and see if it is properly implemented after the voting is over. The groups also hope that everyone will follow the government’s lead and stop using ‘Miss’.

The circular also says that the demand for maiden names on official forms should be eliminated too. Darn skippy it should. It has no relevance to anything, and certainly not to setting up a business or paying your cotisations or opening an electricity account, what you used to be called before you married. It’s your current name, whether you’ve kept your own surname or taken your partner’s, that matters. I for one finding it infuriating to get letters from French administration addressed to me as Stephanie Oakley. That’s not me. I stopped being her 25 years ago when I became Stephanie Dagg. I was perfectly happy to take on Chris’s surname and such was my choice. So it’s irritating when some foreign bureaucrat overrides it!

I dare say it will take a while for this change to come through fully, but it’s all for the good.

And now the bells. As part of the celebrations for its 850th birthday next year, Notre Dame in Paris, which Caiti and I visited the other week, is getting new bells. Its original ones were melted down in 1791 and 1792 to make canons during the French revolutionary wars. More than sixty years later, in 1856 the cathedral got some new bells, but they didn’t make the same sound as their predecessors. So they’re going. Nine new ones have been commissioned. They’ll be made from tin and copper and recapture the authentic sound of Notre Dame’s carillon. Go to the website and you can download an MP3 file to give you an idea what the bells will sound like.  (You need to have the volume set very high to hear them well.)


0 Replies to “Mademoiselles and Bells”

  1. Yeah, it’s suss that it happened at this time, although there’s a department or a region that had already outlawed Madamoiselle. I think it’s a step in the right direction whether there are sinister election undertones or not. I’m not sure I’m even allowed to vote so even more reason for me to embrace the news! Yours, Madame Hollands.

  2. Strangely, we’ve had opposite problems when it comes to family names. Shoko kept hers and Assurance Maladie would have nothing of it. Therefore, she is Shoko Atsuchi on everything, but Shoko Patterson for her health needs. A little consistency, svp.

  3. I certainly hope that they get rid of the requirement to provide maiden names on official forms. That was one of the problems that I encountered while trying to get my driver’s license.

  4. My husband Roy kept his name when we got married. Mostly I used to have a lot of fun when people asked for Mrs. Bryan (his mother and so his last name.) I could explain that she was in Colorado, and wouldn’t be here anytime soon, leaving them to gossip about just who the *+<{* I might be. Ditto him when he fielded inquiries for… ah, my father. Perhaps if we all just keep our names eventually things would be clear.

    Also I think France has it right that everyone has a civil ceremony. And that those who want to can have another, additional, ceremony. Wish that were the custom here. As it is, it is a huge mess, varying from state to state.

    Both countries could try for M. So we all coud be M. …as in mmmmmm……

  5. I’ve always kept my maiden name and it wasn’t a problem in the UK but here it’s like rolling a boulder uphill – and I’ve blogged about it several times. The impôts allow married woman to be included on the déclaration in their maiden name but apart from that it’s like being in the Dark Ages.

    As far as I am concerned this is a big step forwards – no doubt prompted by the forthcoming elections. Actually, for some time there has been a law that forbade public services to impose women’s married name on them if they wanted to use their maiden name, but you try enforcing that in practice!

    1. As you say, it’s welcome progress but how quickly it will actually come in is another matter. You should be able to call yourself by whatever name you choose and not have to argue the toss with the authorities about it for ever onwards!

  6. Happy to hear that France is no longer advertising mademoiselles. I hope now that the maidens have made their official exit women will be asked for their birth names where appropriate, too.
    As for the new title, surely Ms is a fine replacement. It’s in use in US, Britain and Australia and contains no awkward sounds for a French speaker to grapple with. The only problem is when it’s pronounced ‘miz’ because so many people make that sound like ‘miss’ which completely defeats the purpose.

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