A TOWN councillor for Houilles in the Yvelines is trying to get its name changed because it sounds like the French for “ouch!”.
A member of centrist party MoDem, Bruno Comby, says: “Our name harms the commune. People don’t take us seriously.”
Houilles (30,000 population) sounds like ouille! which is one of the French exclamations when a person is in pain.
People are also said to find it funny because of other associations such as the similarity with the slang word for testicles (couilles).
Things used to be worse – before the Second World War the locals, now called Ovilois, used to be called Houillons (which sounds like slang meaning “plonker” - couillon).
Mr Comby wants to change the town name now so it sounds like the newer adjective – Hoville, instead of Houilles. He plans to propose a motion at the next town council meeting.
However the mayor, Alexandre Joly, does not take the idea very seriously. “Imagine all the changes we would have to make – the signs, the administrative documents…” he told Métro.
The town’s unusual name can even be a plus, he said. “You just have to take it with a sense of humour and at least it means people know us.”
Around 40 communes with “amusing” names take such a pride of it they are part of an association with regular meet-ups called the Groupement des Communes aux Noms Burlesques, Pittoresques ou Chantants. Members include Monteton, Moncuq, Corps-Nuds, Vatan and Arnac-la-Poste. The town of Condom, Gers, amuses English-speaking visitors (though it has no meaning in French).