30 November 2009

Kevin, Camilla, Jade and Sidoine

I used to spend hours as a child with my nose buried in books of baby names, picking out my favourites and soaking up their etymology. I wasn't in the least bit broody and this nymophila (careful!) turned out to be quite prophetic as several years later I would spend weeks "researching" the names of the characters in my latest stories. Even now, although most of my main recurring characters do have well established names, a few characters still trouble me and I often retweak their names. Of course, because I am interested in names and their meanings, by this stage, I have usually written into the story something relevant to the character's name--an Emma who turns out to be adulterous, a (female) Laurence whose name is conveniently similar to the name Florence, or the fact that the name Pierre is also the state capital of South Dakota (although pronounced differently).

Needless to say, I was delighted to receive a French academic-year diary because on each date, the name of saint or saints associated with that day were listed. Today is St Andrew's Day but other than Andrew, George, David and Patrick, saints days barely make most people's radar in the UK (and half the time, even these are forgotten--darn sarth, at least). In France, though, there is at least one saint for every day and children celebrate their saint's day as well as their birthday, although that was before les Americains and their dirty, Anglo-Saxon culture invaded; now, a) French children get called Kevin [keh-van], Jade and Camilla (no, really) and b) French kids would rather celebrate their birthday than their saint's day because Facebook doesn't do reminders for upcoming saints' days.

When I first received the diary, I was rather annoyed because all of the other members of my nuclear family had their own jour de fĂȘte but I didn't--Bexquisite isn't a particularly traditional French name, even though it is pronounced with a French accent and stress (behks-kwih-'ZEET). "Ne'er mind," sez I, "I bet I've got a really awesome saint to celebrate on my birthday." Not quite. Not only had I never heard of St Sidoine but, worse, he was a man--the last straw for a tomboy. According to the French Wikipedia [my translation]

St Sidoine was born in England Britian The UK Ireland or Scotland in the 7th Century. He was captured by Jack Sparrow and Co. and sold as a slave to the monks of l'Abbaye de Jumbo Mumbo--nice lads that they were, they often bought slaves just so they could set them free or guilt trip them into a lifetime of servitude, as was the case here. Sid decided to stay at the monastery and become a monk under the "spiritual direction" of Philibert de Turn-Us. Later, he and his mate Wilfred Owen went to Rome to stock up on Limoncello and buy a new Vespa. On his return, he was made abbot of a monastery near Rouen instead, which was, malheureusement, destroyed by vikings in the 9th century--oh noes. 1200 years later, this event was parodied by the British English rock band Supergrass in their fifth album, The Road to Rouen, and his canonisation followed soon afterwards.

It's funny; I could have sworn that the life of St Sidoine wasn't that interesting when I first looked him up. Then again, that was long before the days of Wikipedia.

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