If you were one of the 90 or so inhabitants of the place in northern France called ‘Y’ (pronounced ‘e’ ‘rather than ‘e-grec’ if you are interested) would you (a) move house (b) spend happy hours trying to explain to people that you really do live in the place in France with the shortest name (c) suggest that the name of the place be changed.
Apparently for some places this is a bit of an issue. The chateau pictured here is in a place in Normandy called Eu. Now aside from the fact that foreigners will pretty much all pronounce it wrongly, the town thinks the name is a problem that is costing them dear.
If you search in google for information about the town you will have to dig deep, because Eu is also the past participle of ‘avoir’ (J’ai eu – I have had); the domain name for European websites (ie they end .eu instead of .com); an abbreviation for European Union…and the town itself is nowhere to be found.
The town say that this omission is losing them a great deal of tourists, and Eu should be renamed to include the word ‘ville’ or ‘chateau’ – but I’m not quite so sure. If someone has never heard of the place they are unlikely to suddenly search for it, and if they have heard of it I think they would search for ‘Eu France town’ or similar. It will be unfortunate if the town go to all the trouble and expense of changing their name only to find that the lack of tourists is due to something else entirely.
We have a similar problem with Domme, a lovely little Dordogne town not far from us. Domme is also a popular abbreviation for a word that includes ‘domin’ and ‘atrix’ as one word (which I’ll avoid writing in full here since we have enough troubles already). The google results slowly get taken over by the wrong type of Domme, then every few months I report it to google, they seem to clear out the less desirable results…and the process starts again.
Although I haven’t yet heard any proposals to rename it as ‘Domme on the hill’ or ‘Domme with a lovely view’ etc.
A different kind of confusion about names has been in the press today. Seems that Mr Obama wrote to the French president telling him how he looked forward to working with him for the next four years…but addressed the letter to M. Chirac instead of M Sarkozy. As you might guess this isn’t the best way to make friends and influence people in France, where diplomacy and politesse are at least as important as what actually gets said and done.
Who says a name isn’t important?