Re: I18n issue: French family names with "de"

From: Marion Gunn (
Date: Fri Oct 23 1998 - 06:46:01 EDT

How very, very interesting, Alain! In Ireland we are beset by a habit
foreign newspapers (unfortunately often copied by local) have, of
wrongly writing names such as "de Bhaldraithe" and "de Valera" with a
capital letter d (which they should only be given at the beginning of a
sentence). I am copying this to two of our discussion lists, for their

Alain wrote:
> A 14:08 98-10-22 -0700, John Cowan a écrit :
> >IIRC, monosyllabic names always keep the "de" (Charles de Gaulle,
> >de Gaulle), but longer names drop it when there is no prenom
> >(Alexis de Tocqueville, Tocqueville). "D'" is never dropped.
> >
> >Is this correct current usage? Is it correct historical usage?
> [Alain] :
> Monosyllabic names? What do you mean?
> De Gaulle is by no means monosyllabic in French (Gaulle it self is composed
> of 2 syllables).
> There is a more fundamental rule. Noble names have a small "d" in "de",
> which is more fuzzily integrated into the name itself. "De Gaulle" was not
> of noble origin, so the "De" is always capitalized (although for "de
> Gaulle" there has been exceptions in quoting, he has been nobilized by his
> "grandeur", de facto, by many people) and part of his name.
> "de Tocqueville", if of noble origin, then never takes an upper case, and
> it is less clear that the "d" is part of the name itself. Usage is fuzzy.
> As there is also a rule that says that the first letter of a sentence is a
> capital letter, it is not clear also that the "d" would not be capitalized
> in this case. I would personaly avoid the problem in not using the "de" in
> this case, for example, in order to introduce confusion on this information
> about the noble origin, although nowadays this is purely cosmetic when
> nobility has been abolished in most French-speaking countries.
> Alain LaBonté
> Tel Aviv

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