Fañch.

This brief Guardian story from a couple of years ago reports on yet another annoying result of stupid national laws restricting what parents can name their kids:

A French court has banned a couple from giving their baby a name containing a tilde, ruling that the character ñ was incompatible with national law.

The couple from Brittany wanted to call their newborn boy Fañch, a traditional name in the northwestern region which has its own language. […]

It’s hardly worth posting on its own, but I was curious about the name Fañch; fortunately, in the age of Google and Wikipedia it was the work of a moment to learn that it’s a diminutive of Frañsez, the Breton equivalent of François. What I’m wondering is, how do you get Fañch from Frañsez? Anybody know enough Breton to explain? (Thanks, Kobi!)

Comments

  1. Sounds like Pancho/Francisco.

  2. This does open the question, what are the laws in various countries regarding allowed characters in official names?

    [Add:] Aha! L’affaire Fañch!

  3. I know an Italian named Francisco whose mom called him “Franji” (or “Frangey”? “Franzhy”? not sure how to represent it without hauling out the IPA symbols)

  4. Similar to Fanny as a diminutive of Frances?

  5. L’affaire Fañch (in French; Breton version available as well.)

    It goes in detail into all the laws cited by the plaintiffs and by the state. No non-French diacritics allowed.

    The USA is in general very accommodating of given names. However, some states limit what characters appear in official documents. California limits them to the standard 26. A proposal was made to allow accented characters in official documents, but the cost of upgrading the system was estimated at a princely $10 million, at which lawmakers balked.

    Of states with large Native American populations, Alaska allows diacritics but New Mexico does not.

    The word from Vermont is, “You may use trademarked names (IBM), diseases (Anthrax), and obscenities, but we highly recommend against it.”

  6. I’m sorry to link to a site called “The Bump”, but it has the goods for US naming regulations.

  7. I think you are being a little over harsh. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that a government places a restriction on official names so that they can only include characters which exist in official national languages. You can spell your own name however you damn well like but it can only appear on official documents in accordance with national standards.

    Even though ñ is not a particularly unusual character, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if legacy government computer systems have difficulty with it. If the authorities were to reject the name without the tilde that would be more of a reason for complaint.

    Breton is not an official language in France (let’s not go there). If Breton characters are allowed, why not Polish or Vietnamese ? I’m sure there are more French citizens who speak those languages than speak Breton.

  8. John Cowan says:

    The letter ñ is a nasalization diacritic used to represent French nasal vowels in words borrowed into Breton. It is also possible to put the tilde directly on the vowel; apparently this alternative was easier to type(set) and became standard. In typographical extremis one can use a simple n, as in French itself.

    I got an email yesterday from a Frencisco [sic] who calls himself Frank and spells it Frenc.

  9. J.W. Brewer says:

    The site named The Bump was not quite as hilarious as one might have hoped, but no apology is necessary. Of course the U.S. features a plethora of different governments, each of which has lots of different bureaucratic tentacles. So even if a child is born in a state that allows tildes on the birth certificate, it might be hazardous to assume that the different branch of the same state’s government that issues driver’s licenses will be equally tilde-tolerant when the child is 16. And of course the child may at some point move to another state altogether. And what various private-sector entities the child may need to interact with adds further variability. So if your ideal orthographic representation of your name deviates from the simplest diacritical-free ASCII character set, you need to expect different bureaucratic outcomes in different contexts throughout your life in the U.S.

    I take it from what I know of French politics that any suggestion that maybe the local authorities in Brittany ought to have discretion to set their own policy as to acceptable characters on birth certificates, which might turn out to be different than the local policy in Paris or Strasbourg, would be a total non-starter.

  10. “The Bump” comes from baby bump, a recent euphemism which I find loathsome. It’s used in gossip columns and is meant to reassure certain people that their pregnancy is cute, and in no way makes them look f-a-t.

    The strict 26 policy of California also appears to exclude Jean-Paul and D’Arcy. Louisianans can’t have Hélène. Hawaiians, however, can have everything.

  11. January First-of-May says:

    I’m reminded of the Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names. Most of them are over the top (culminating in the final entry, “People have names”), but a few are very much true.

    I wonder if (Barcelona goalkeeper) Marc-André ter Stegen – whose name, IIRC, breaks about three or four of them – has problems with various renderings of his name…

  12. > “People have names”

    In the context of the Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names, that sentence means “All people have names”, which is definitely a falsehood. I remember having to fill in my son’s name when he was a couple of days old and didn’t have one yet. (The deadline for giving him one was 2 weeks in the jurisdiction.)

  13. Wiktionary says it’s pronounced \ˈfɑ̃ʃ\ , which would not have been my first or second guess. And they have \frɑ̃.sɛs\ for Frañsez

  14. “baby bump, a recent euphemism” — Eh? What is the non-euphemistic equivalent?

    Irish names in Ireland : [Ciarán Ó Cofaigh] said it is “ironic” that he has to look to European rules to assert his Irish identity. … article 16 of the GDPR “clearly sets out” the rights of a person to have their records corrected.

  15. A pregnant belly, or such.

  16. restricting what parents can name their kids

    You are attaching way too much importance to powers of bureaucrats.

    People can call their children whatever they want, but the government can only restrict the names which appear in their ID cards, but who says that’s their true name?

    I feel pretty strongly that the family nicknames of my children are actually their true names, not the names on their birth certificates (which are only ever used by their teachers anyway).

  17. The decision appears to have been reversed – not on the ground that parents can name kids whatever they want, but because “the tilde is not unknown to the French language.”

    https://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2018/11/22/le-parquet-general-se-pourvoit-en-cassation-contre-le-tilde-de-fanch_5387194_3224.htm

  18. You are attaching way too much importance to powers of bureaucrats.

    No, I’m just objecting to the way they think and act. Yes, people can sometimes ignore them, but their stupid ideas actually do have practical effects.

  19. And they’re not sitting around wringing their hands and moaning “Oh, how I wish we could let people do as they want, but we’re constrained by the cold, cruel facts of life!” Their greatest joy in life is preventing people from doing what they want. For this they can find an infinite number of excuses.

  20. Stu Clayton says:

    Bloix’s link gives me a 404, this one doesn’t:

    http://www.europe1.fr/societe/tilde-de-fanch-le-parquet-general-se-pourvoit-en-cassation-3805958

    The decision was annulled by the appellate court of Rennes, but the prosecutor has announced an appeal against that decision.

  21. J.W. Brewer says:

    The Irish example is interesting precisely because of the “aha hypocrisy!” angle — the government purports to highly value a specific non-English language whose spelling uses some diacritical marks not found in the standard/minimalist English version of the Latin alphabet, yet does not consistently follow through and cater to that language’s distinctive orthographic needs. No French government of the last several centuries has purported to be that affirmatively supportive of Breton.

    Of course, English’s own orthography has changed over the centuries. If I wanted to give a daughter the good old English name of Friðuswīþ, should the government (in an Anglophone jurisdiction) accommodate us on the paperwork rather than require a transliteration into the current character set?

  22. Stu Clayton says:

    Peevers’ paradise. Central authority rears up on its hind legs:

    # Dans son jugement du 13 septembre 2017, le tribunal avait estimé qu’autoriser le tilde reviendrait “à rompre la volonté de notre État de droit de maintenir l’unité du pays et l’égalité sans distinction d’origine”. #

  23. John Cowan says:

    What is the non-euphemistic equivalent?

    “The abdomen/belly of a pregnant woman”, I suppose.

    Here’s a rant of mine from when I was at Google: “Against Structured Names and Telephone Numbers”, which opposes the habit of having separate fields in databases for “first name”, “last name”, “area code”, and so on.

    In their earliest youth my grandsons were known as “Baby Boy Cowan” and “Baby Boy Cowan” respectively, as their fathers had not yet signed the paternity acknowledgement that New York State requires for a father to have a father’s rights and duties absent a court order. The latter actually got a prescription for vitamin drops in this name, but now his vitamins are addressed to him by his actual name, Luca LeChevalier.

  24. David Marjanović says:

    Bloix’s link gives me a 404

    That’s because the L at the end is missing. Restore it, and it works.

    It says the appeals court in Rennes has pointed out that ñ is allowed in last names; therefore, to deny it in first names would be inconsistent.

  25. >I’m reminded of the Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names. Most of them are over the top (culminating in the final entry, “People have names”), but a few are very much true.

    Thanks for this!

    I spend half of my year helping manage an election department. We’re developing a new voter registration management system (essentially a voter registration database with numerous ancillary systems and capacities.) This is very useful.

    Among other things, we interface with the Social Security Administration to find out about deaths. It irks me no end that people have the gall to register to vote with a different name than the one God and the SSA gave them. But yes, it’s salutary to learn to deal with it.

  26. UTF-8 has been the dominant encoding on the Web for the last decade. Is there a good reason governments don’t want to accept it?

  27. January First-of-May says:

    Of course, the permissivity of European naming conventions regularly results in cases like that of a certain Mr. &#268,éplö…

  28. Yo, bulbul, spam removal in Aisle 7…

  29. John Cowan says:

    david: Legacy systems, lots of them, that use either ASCII or even EBCDIC (the original encoding of IBM mainframes).

  30. David Marjanović says:

    Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names, With Examples and a link to a W3C page about best practices.

    Concerning “People have names”… people who come in contact with a computer or a bureaucracy probably have names. People born in slavery in Sudan apparently don’t, and names are also absent in cultures that are very small or have very low population density – a tribe somewhere in the rainforest in Colombia, IIRC, goes just by kinship terms, and the same was traditionally the case among the Mansi in a huge area of western Siberia.

  31. gwenllian says:

    The Irish example is interesting precisely because of the “aha hypocrisy!” angle — the government purports to highly value a specific non-English language whose spelling uses some diacritical marks not found in the standard/minimalist English version of the Latin alphabet, yet does not consistently follow through and cater to that language’s distinctive orthographic needs. No French government of the last several centuries has purported to be that affirmatively supportive of Breton.

    Few governments anywhere are quite as affirmatively or quite as hypocritically supportive of a language as Irish governments are of Irish. To be fair, Irish language demographics make it increasingly difficult to walk the walk, regardless of intention. Not that that’s an excuse not to even make an effort with the orthography.

    Still, eradication of minority languages is no longer official French policy, and accepting names in these languages seems like a relatively effortless way to show that.

    Breton is not an official language in France (let’s not go there). If Breton characters are allowed, why not Polish or Vietnamese ? I’m sure there are more French citizens who speak those languages than speak Breton.

    I’m not familiar with what the legal implications of allowing them would be, but for a state that has successfully actively suppressed its minority languages to not even let people name their children in them seems downright petty and cruel.

  32. J.W. Brewer says:

    When I was younger it was widely understood that while computers were mysterious and magical and futuristic they were also stupid and clunky so you shouldn’t expect them to be perfect in dealing with names. I remember one time in school (probably mid to late Seventies) when we were filling out forms to be scanned for some sort of thing that was going to be computer processed and not only could it not deal with uppercase v lowercase it had an 8-letter maximum for first names, so e.g. a classmate whose given name was Elizabeth would be coded as ELIZABET. Now, they’d probably figured out that 8 letters was enough to avoid ambiguity in an overwhelming percentage of cases (on the boys’ side, for example, you could be pretty confident in the US in those days that anyone named CHRISTOP was highly likely to be a truncated “Christopher” not a truncated “Christoph” – on the girls’ side once you had JACQUELI there was only one likely continuation, etc.), and using more of their scarce resources just to make people feel that the machines were treating them with dignity and respect was apparently not a priority.

  33. I have probably mentioned this before, but I understand that Chinese official computer systems have a limit on the number of characters that can be accepted in the name field, probably about four or five since most Chinese names are unlikely to go beyond that. As a result, people of minority ethnic groups whose names transliterated into Chinese characters go beyond that number end up with truncated names. (Sorry not to be more specific. I’m not sure if it applies to names as given in passports, but it apparently does in other areas.)

  34. I recall several media reports of Chinese whose names use minority or regional or just very rare characters who have effectively become non-persons because the characters do not appear in the government database of name characters. They were born at a time when children were registered in hand-written ledgers. They cannot get any form of modern ID document so cannot even buy a train ticket never mind open a bank account or get a passport but they also cannot change their name as that would require inputting their birth name into a government database which is apparently not possible.

  35. Speaking as someone who uses two different names, it can be surprisingly useful, particularly if one of your names gets put on the No-Fly List.

    The US government has constructed its own name for me which is not the same as either of the names that I use, but that’s how I talk to them. Many US government documents have fields for you to put in the different names that you use, however.

  36. @Alex M.: And all inside a totalitarian state. There’s a science fiction novel there, assuming it hasn’t already been written.

  37. French départements were originally numbered 1 to 89 in alphabetical order. Corsica was number 20 until 1975, when it was split into Corse-du-Sud (2A) and Haute-Corse (2B). Many French IT systems have a two-digit field for département, causing headaches for Corsicans. The ultimate solution was in hardware rather than software: in 2018, Corse was reunited and given back the number 20.

  38. David Marjanović says:

    I had no idea! When l’énorme département de la Seine was split, Paris kept the number 75, while the suburbs got 90 through 95.

  39. suburbs got 91 through 95. 90 went after 1871 to Belfort, the Dunkirk of France

  40. Their greatest joy in life is preventing people from doing what they want. For this they can find an infinite number of excuses.

    This is really startlingly offensive and inaccurate. It’s also unoriginal; did you read it in the Daily Mail?

  41. Oh, come now. People have different opinions; get used to it. That’s my take on it; if you happen to be a bureaucrat yourself, I’m sure you’re excellent at it and I exempt you from my generalization. But bear in mind that I’m an anarchist and have no inherent love for those whose job it is to make other people follow orders.

  42. I used to be a bureaucrat too and I would have been offended back then. But not now.

    People who are there to help people sooner or later get out and those whose “greatest joy in life is preventing people from doing what they want” stay.

  43. There you go. Straight from the ex-horse’s mouth.

  44. The way i see things, stray comments aren’t offensive.

    But sticking to your guns when called out is. And its plain weird. I mean, you have a bureaucrat, me , thanking you upthread for crystalizing why we need to better accommodate, and you stiill stick with ridiculous, overblown generalizations.

    In my experience, most bureaucrats try to serve people. Soometimes they’re hamstrung by politicians whose continued tenure rests in part on the cynicism of voters who can’t be bothered to distinguish the good from the bad. Your comments put you in that camp.

  45. Eh, I get where you’re coming from, but surely you recognize that people in any profession or other in-group automatically default to defending that group against all outside attack. Cops do the same. I am perfectly willing to acknowledge that there are plenty of good bureaucrats who do try to serve people; you should be willing to think about why there’s such a widespread popular perception to the contrary. These things don’t happen by chance.

  46. Also, I make ridiculous, overblown generalizations all the time. This is a blog, not a government report or a science monograph. If I had to be judicious and restrained all the time, LH wouldn’t exist.

  47. J.W. Brewer says:

    The bureaucrat(s) to be criticized here are not merely bureaucrats, but French. Fonctionnaires, one might say, which is not a word too often used in English but when it is used seems to have an extra-pejorative undertone of officious busybodiness. The question more generally is perhaps not whether bureaucrats are trying to be helpful or unhelpful in the abstract — they are trying to implement various government policies – often set above their own level of decision-making power. What you think of them will depend in part on what you think of the policies. If you sign on to work for the French state, with its notorious love for heavy-handed and illiberal policies such as, just for example, squelching Breton cultural autonomy, you are signalling that you’re probably the sort of person who doesn’t find those policies particularly objectionable, and others are free to draw appropriate conclusions about you.

    I will admit I was more sympathetic before the revelation of the additional detail that they already had their info-systems infrastructure set up to handle tildes in surnames.

  48. But I’m no more authoritative than anyone else, and I’m always happy to listen to other opinions. I’ve said far worse things about Chomskyites/generativists than I’ve ever said about bureaucrats, yet Norbert good-humoredly presents the case for the defense and I listen to him with pleasure. Debate is far better than preemptive self-censorship.

  49. Russians have a fascinating phrase административный восторг (“administrative delight”, according to Google and I mostly agree, maybe also “executive exuberance”) apparently coined by Dostoevsky and meaning exactly what it says, finding perverse satisfaction in petty tyranny in the name of following the rules and bureaucratic efficiency. Should have been a translation from German, though.

  50. Administrationfreude or something

  51. @David Marjanović:

    > It says the appeals court in Rennes has pointed out that ñ is allowed in last names; therefore, to deny it in first names would be inconsistent.

    Not just inconsistent, but discriminatoire (“discriminatory”), which has the same meaning in French as in English. (“Inconsistent” makes it sound like they’ve out-bureaucratted themselves into allowing something because an automaton would allow it; “discriminatory” highlights the human dimension. The ministry had accepted that official decrees sometimes use “ñ” in inherited foreign surnames, but somehow deemed it “not part of French” the moment a Breton couple wanted it in their child’s given name; the appeals court is calling them out on that.)

    The full ruling is at https://www.dalloz-actualite.fr/sites/dalloz-actualite.fr/files/resources/2018/11/17-07569.pdf, if you’re interested; it’s not long.

  52. David Marjanović says:

    Thanks.

  53. J.W. Brewer says:

    It’s only been 25 years since France abandoned the policy of “all parents must pick their baby’s prenom from this official list of approved candidates,” with the official list slanted against “foreign” seeming names, I believe including names traditional in non-French regional languages. If one assumes that fewer than 100% of French citizens and bureaucrats viewed this liberalization as a positive change, one perhaps should not be too surprised to see attempts to restore the spirit of the old policy pop up from time to time in the implementation of the new policy. The old policy was obviously much looser on surnames than given names. No one made Nicolas Sarkozy’s immigrant predecessors get rid of the overtly non-French surname as long as they gave their France-born kids prenoms that looked and sounded more French than Hungarian.

  54. As the English term given name suggests, first names are thought of as a parental choice (though they may be mandated by culture in some cases), whereas surnames seem not to be, though in principle John Smith and Mary Jones can register their child as Robinson Crusoe without problem, at least in the U.S.

  55. J.W. Brewer says:

    Certainly “given name” implies a giver, but that idiom does not, by itself, imply that that parents (as opposed to “the community” or some other authority figure or group within the community) are necessarily the primary or default givers, does it? That they traditionally have been in English-speaking societies is highly relevant to our understanding of the term, but that aspect of it is, I would think, non-compositional.

    And of course “given name” is something of a secularized update and/or euphemism of the older “Christian name,” which was paradigmatically (the situation got more complicated in English-speaking societies post-Reformation with the development of certain Protestant groups that didn’t do infant baptism) the name that the priest had uttered aloud when he baptized you, which in practice generally meant a name chosen by the parents that the priest found tolerable as within some understood scope of propriety, the boundaries of which varied by time and place.

  56. John Cowan says:

    Sure. I didn’t mean the choice was unconstrained (see our discussions of Akaky Akakievich and Breton names in France), just that it is chosen whereas the surname is normally not.

    The OED tags given name (s.v. given) as “chiefly Scottish and U.S.” Indeed, the first purely English use they show is the Guardian in 1954. Apparently saint’s name was an older usage: one can understand why Calvinists wouldn’t care for it.

  57. J.W. Brewer: My view on the term “Christian name” is pretty well summed up by this scene from Escape From Sobibor: https://youtu.be/b4R53qvwbag?t=7174

    I know I have commented here before that it’s an amazing movie, but the early parts are probably too horrifying for me to watch more than once.

  58. J.W. Brewer says:

    The google n-gram viewer shows the notable decline over the last several centuries in the term “Christian name” compared to the concurrent rise of “first name” and “given name,” a trend which corresponds to the evolution away from a situation in which 99%+ (maybe essentially 100% through circa 1650) of the members of English-speaking societies were at least nominally Christian. You need to have a material percentage of non-Christians in your speech community before idioms presuming universal-or-default Christian status are exclusionary or otherwise problematic either in effect or in intent. I assume that even in the very old days, when texts in English had occasion to refer to the given name of the Ottoman sultan or some other foreign personage who was known to be conspicuously non-Christian, a different phrase was used.

    To my earlier point regarding who “gives” the “given name,” the formal structure of old-timey Church of English baptisms assumes that the priest asks the godparents, not the parents, what name the baby is to be given, and the godparents, not the parents, then answer that question. I don’t think the rubrics and canons explicitly address what happens if the godparents propose a name that the priest thinks unacceptable. And presumably in practice the godparents were generally not freelancing but were passing on the name the parents had selected.

  59. It was a joke in Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels that when Morse arrived as a scholarship student at Oxford, ca. 1950, he would not tell the other students his “Christian name,”* so he was nicknamed “Pagan.” I assume that Dexter’s depiction of mid-century Oxbridge culture was probably pretty accurate.

    * It was Endeavor.

  60. *tsk* Endeavour, after Cook’s ship. As revealed in a crossword clue in a later story.
    Morse also once solved a mystery by noticing that a suspect had confused his Latin and Greek by spelling a verb using -ise not -ize and therefore clearly wasn’t an Oxford man as claimed.

  61. Speaking of Inspector Morse, is anyone else watching the ITV/PBS series Victoria? (Yes, yes, it’s horrible unhistorical schlock, but come on, we all watched Downton Abbey, admit it.) My wife and I were surprised when Lord Palmerston showed up in the person of Laurence Fox, whom we knew as DS Hathaway in the spinoff series Lewis.

  62. @Alex M.: Autocorrect switched it to the American spelling. Although in Cook’s day, either spelling would have been accepted on either side of the Atlantic. I don’t know how picky the Admiralty was about the spelling of ship names during that period.

    @languagehat: I really liked Fox in Inspector Lewis, especially his explanation of how he left the seminary. However, I later saw him in the execrable The Last Drop. While the badness of his character was probably not his fault, it soured me on Fox somewhat.

  63. David Marjanović says:

    Too bad the plot point around “Christian name” doesn’t work in German. All we have is Vorname, evidently from prénom.

  64. @David Marjanović: Kristenname certainly existed historically, although I think it was obsolete by 1943.

  65. David Marjanović says:

    Is that Dutch? In German, K- for Ch- is limited to very recent (post-1968, I guess) creative spellings of personal names.

  66. When I encountered that spelling in writing, it may have been from Ostfriesland. I had thought of the term as more general, but it might have been spelled differently outside Lower Saxony. Google makes it hard to search for that term, so it is difficult to say more right now.

  67. David Marjanović says:

    Probably it’s a regional peculiarity, then. East Frisia (Frisian substrate and all) has cultural peculiarities even compared to the rest of Lower Saxony.

  68. As I recall, when Prussia gained significant territory in western Germany after the Napoleonic Wars, the Prussians took significant measures to “Germanize” the East Frisians, who prior to that had been almost Dutch in character.

  69. per incuriam says:

    The bureaucrat(s) to be criticized here are not merely bureaucrats, but French. Fonctionnaires, one might say, which is not a word too often used in English but when it is used seems to have an extra-pejorative undertone of officious busybodiness … If you sign on to work for the French state, with its notorious love for heavy-handed and illiberal policies such as, just for example, squelching Breton cultural autonomy…

    A couple of minor tweaks there and you’ve totally nailed the Feindbild at the root of the Brexit escapade. Though actual Brexiteers usually try and tone down the xenophobia.

    If fonctionnaire is used in English (I’ve never come across it) with “an extra-pejorative undertone”, then perhaps that is just nationalist colouring: in France itself, as far as I can see, the strongest feeling the word evokes is mild envy, if even that. Fonctionnaires, by the way, include teachers, nurses, firefighters etc. and no doubt also some of those whose job it is to promote and preserve the Breton language.

  70. Lars (the original one) says:

    Funktionær in Denmark was the private sector version of the bestillingsmand, a governmental employee with a fixed annual salary but not (formally) appointed by the King directly. So like in France, anybody afforded a little personal responsibility for planning their own time, as opposed to blue or white collar workers, but not part of management as such.

    We still have Funktionærloven which sets out default rules of employment for such work, but nobody calls themself funktionær any longer.

  71. *tsk* Endeavour, after Cook’s ship.

    read somewhere about patriotic Victorian family which had twin boys in 1900 and named them Mafeking and Ladysmith…

  72. Alon Lischinsky says:

    If fonctionnaire is used in English (I’ve never come across it) with “an extra-pejorative undertone”

    Well, that’s an empirical question, and best answered looking at the data— which seem, alas, rather sparse. There are only three instances of the word in the BNC, two of which are direct references to the French national context and glossed ‘civil servant’. COCA has more hits, but once again they are all references to the French administration.

    The third in the BNC, from a book titled Empire and the English character, could support J. W. Brewer’s contention: “the collaboration of a vast class of petty native fonctionnaires”. A similar evaluative prosody seems to come up in quite of the hits in NOW. Some of them could pass as purely national references (e.g., “France’s bloated public sector, which infamously employs more than five million fonctionnaires”, “modified the very spirit of (French) society by turning everyone into fonctionnaires”, “his smug self-regard and importance reminds me of some of the French fonctionnaires I’ve come across in their govt. offices”), but a good many are just transparently negative: “fonctionnaires have done and will do what they like, regardless of government orders”, “the cupidity and incompetence of the fonctionnaire monopolists”.

    I leave for the reader the exercise of deciding whether that’s just nationalist colouring.

  73. J.W. Brewer says:

    I am pleased to see that Alon Lischinsky has done the actual work of checking corpora to investigate my impressionistic sense. I would belatedly add as a related datapoint that “functionary” in English (possibly by etymology a domestication of “fonctionnaire”) quite often has a pejorative vibe, as seen by wiktionary giving “paper pusher” and “bean-counter” as synonyms. Whether that pejorative vibe comes from a pejorative sense of “fonctionnaire” or is unrelated but then maybe spills over the other direction and colors the semantics of “fonctionnaire” for Anglophones is unclear to me.

  74. John Cowan says:

    “functionary” in English (possibly by etymology a domestication of “fonctionnaire”)

    Just so, according to the OED and Etymonline. It’s an etymological nativization.

  75. In German, Funktionär isn’t normally used for civil servants or government officials, but for officials of other organisations, like parties, trade unions, sports associations etc. It is often used with negative connotations – people trying to gather influence and power instead of serving the people they are supposed to represent, or bureaucrats spending their time in meetings and creating useless rules.
    As for Ostfriesland, the Dutch influence was especially strong in the Western half, which accordingly is traditionally Calvinist, while the Eastern half is Lutheran, like most of Northern Germany.

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