The image below, of the Boulevard du Temple in Paris, was captured in early 1838 by Louis Daguerre, inventor of the daguerreotype.
It may be the earliest surviving photograph of a person. Two people, actually. Both are in the lower left:
Here’s a close-up:
The standing man is getting his shoe shined, and the other man (partially obscured) is doing the shoe-shining.
Of all the people on the sidewalk that day, these were the only two to stay still long enough (about 10 minutes) to be captured in the image.
Now for the fun part!
What would you name these two Frenchmen?
Let’s pretend you’re writing a book set in Paris in the 1830s, and these are two of your characters. What names would you give them?
Here’s a long list of traditional French male names, to get you started:
Abel Absolon Achille Adam Adolphe Adrien Aimé Alain Alban Albert Alexandre Alfred Alphonse Amaury Amroise Amédée Anatole André Anselme Antoine Antonin Apollinaire Ariel Aristide Armand Arnaud Arsène Arthur Aubert Aubin Auguste Augustin Aurèle Aurélien Baptiste Barnabé Barthélémy Basile Bastien Benjamin Benoit Bernard Bertrand Blaise Boniface Bruno Calixte Camille Céleste Célestin Césaire César Charles Christian Christophe
Clair Claude Clément Clovis Constant Constantin Corentin Corin Corneille Cosme Cyril Damien Daniel David Denis Déodat Désiré Didier Dieudonné Dimitri Diodore Dominique Donat Donatien Edgar Edgard Edmé Edmond Édouard Élie Eloi Émeric Émile Émilien Emmanuel Enzo Éric Ermenegilde Ernest Ethan Étienne Eugène Eustache Évariste Évrard Fabien Fabrice Félicien Félix Ferdinand Fernand Fiacre Firmin Florence Florent
Florentin Florian Francis François Frédéric Gabriel Gaël Gaëtan Gaspard Gaston Gaubert Geoffroy Georges Gérard Géraud Germain Gervais Ghislain Gilbert Gilles Gratien Grégoire Guatier Guillaume Gustave Guy Hector Henri Herbert Hercule Hervé Hilaire Hippolyte Honoré Horace Hubert Hugues Humbert Hyacinthe Ignace Irénée Isidore Jacques Jason Jean Jérémie Jérôme Joachim Jocelyn Joël Jonathan Joseph Josse Josué Jourdain
Jules Julien Juste Justin Laurent Laurentin Lazare Léandre Léo Léon Léonard Léonce Léonide Léopold Lionel Loïc Lothaire Louis Loup Luc Lucas Lucien Lucrèce Ludovic Maël Marc Marcel Marcellin Marin Marius Martin Mathieu Mathis Matthias Maurice Maxence Maxime Maximilien Michaël Michel Modeste Narcisse Nathan Nathanaël Nazaire Nicéphore Nicodème Nicolas Noé Noël Norbert Odilon Olivier Onésime Pascal
Patrice Paul Philippe Pierre Placide Pons Prosper Quentin Rainier Raoul Raphaël Raymond Régis Rémy René Reynaud Richard Robert Roch Rodolphe Rodrigue Roger Roland Romain Rosaire Ruben Salomon Samuel Sébastien Séraphin Serge Sévère Séverin Simon Sylvain Sylvestre Télesphore Théodore Théophile Thibault Thierry Thomas Timothée Toussaint Urbain Valentin Valère Valéry Vespasien Victor Vincent Vivien Xavier Yves Zacharie
For some real-life inspiration, here are lists of famous 19th century and 20th century French people, courtesy of Wikipedia. Notice that many of the Frenchman have double-barreled, triple-barreled, even quadruple-barreled given names. (Daguerre himself was named Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre.)
You may not be surprised to learn that UK-based singer Dido wasn’t born Dido. After all, Bono wasn’t born Bono. Moby wasn’t born Moby. Plenty of entertainers have stage names, right?
But Dido’s name also isn’t a stage name. Throughout childhood she was actually called Dido (after the Queen of Carthage in Virgil’s Aeneid). And she wasn’t too happy about it. “I thought it was cruel to call me Dido and then expect me to just deal with it,” she told The Guardian back in 2001.
According to Dido’s birth certificate, her real first name is Florian — a name she also dislikes. “Florian is a German man’s name. That’s just mean.”
How did Dido feel about growing up with two first names?
To be called one thing and christened another is actually very confusing and annoying. It’s one of the most irritating things that my parents did to me. I’m still irritated by it.
As an adult, she put an end to the confusion by making Dido her legal first name.