Baby Name Zöé Rejected, then Approved, in Quebec

Kriystal Gray of Montreal wanted to name her one-month-old daughter Zoé (zo-AY). But she also wanted her daughter’s name to stand out. So what did she do? She decided to spell it Zöé.

At first, the government of Quebec rejected Zöé and its gratuitous diacritic. Article 108 of the Civil Code of Quebec states that:

Where a name contains characters, diacritical signs or a combination of a character and a diacritical sign that are not used for the writing of French or English, the name must be transcribed into French or English, at the option of the interested person.

In French, the diaeresis mark is typically used to change the sound of the second of two vowels (as in naïve). And you’ll never find one over an o. So the diaeresis mark in Zöé doesn’t make sense at all.

Despite this, and despite its initial ruling, the government later reversed its stance and approved the name.

What do you think: Are the dots a big deal? Why or why not? Would you have approved or rejected this name?


11 thoughts on “Baby Name Zöé Rejected, then Approved, in Quebec

  1. Well, considering she’ll probably just end up writing it ‘Zoe’ because accents are horrible to do online, it seems like a complete waste of time to me!

  2. I was under the assumption that a parent has the right to name their own child. The government of Quebec obviously and evidently has nothing better to do with its time.

  3. @name poet – It depends on where you live. Some places allow you to choose just about anything; other places are not as lenient.

  4. The French are often sticklers for keeping their language pure, and perhaps the Québécois are too. Zöé is incorrect in any language, so I’m all for the officials making the parents aware of that. But in the end, I agree with their decision to let the parents write their child’s name the way they want. (I noticed that the mother’s name is incorrectly spelled as well, so perhaps the family is spelling-challenged.)

    My granddaughter went through a similar dilemma when she was thinking of naming her baby Chloë. That IS the most correct way to write the name, with the dieresis (“dots”) over the ‘e’, indicating that the vowels o and e are pronounced separately. Without it, Chloë (klo-ee) is really just Chloe (kloe). I did some research on the name and found that writing the name with the dieresis is very common in the UK, but not so much in the US where there is some confusion about where the dieresis belongs. One of the most popular baby name websites (that of the co-authors of several baby name books who refer to themselves as “the high-profile experts on name style, image and trends”) incorrectly lists “Chlöe” as a variation of “Chloe”. (I wrote to them about this error several months ago and was told it would be corrected, but it’s still there.) The French write the name as Chloé and pronounce it ‘klo-ay.

    Fortunately my granddaughter decided Chloë/Chloe is far too popular for her daughter and chose another name which needs no accent marks.

  5. Actually, the Ö letter exists, but not in English or French. For example, Ö is a common letter in Swedish and Finnish and is also used in some names, like the Finnish name Yrjö (which is actually the name for George!).

  6. @izzy: accents are a breeze to do when you have a bilingual or french language keyboard, which is assumed this person would have, living in québec.

  7. NO ONE ( especially the so called Quebec government) has the write to tell parents they cannot name their children as they wish!!

  8. In fact, some nerds use the ö in english to spell coöperate like this. Therefore it can be argued that the o-with-trema is an english letter ;-)

  9. Well, I would have stuck with the ruling. It doesn’t make any sense. I’m Russian living in the UK, so I’m using the Cyrillic alphabet as an example. You know when cartoons and such so that fake “Ye Olde Soviet propaganda poster” font, where they’ll spell English words with “Russian” letters? Like the backwards-R for an R, except in Russian the letter is nowhere near an R and is, in fact, a vowel?
    Well, that’s like if I were to have a kid here in the UK, call him Robert, but spell it with the “Backwards-R-but-not-really”. Non-Russian speakers would be none the wiser, so who cares, right? except it makes no sense and why do it?
    In this case, the diaeresis carries zero phonetic sense or function in either of the official languages, what’s the use? It’s like putting <3 an an official part of the name.

    And, actually, AnneMarie and name poet, it's not just the Quebec government that does this. Countless countries have lists of banned baby names, to stop "creative" parents from calling their kids things like IKEA, Metallica, or @.

  10. The only thing I’ve taken from this news story is that parents of today are trying to be unique in the most unnecessary ways. Using diacritical signs to make a name look more unique on paper seems rather vain and desperate to me. However, it’s only further evidence that we live in an extremely visual society.

    Let’s hope this little Zöé isn’t a future student in Linguistics. It may be a tad embarrassing for her otherwise…

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