French toddler Fañch permitted Breton spelling of name

A Breton toddler named Fañch has been officially allowed to keep the “ñ” on his name, after the French Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that it was legal.

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The ruling finally decided in favour of the boy and his parents’ case on Thursday, October 17.

Fañch Bernard - whose first name is spelled with an “n” with a tilde above it, in the traditional Breton style - was born on May 11, 2017.

His parents have been fighting to maintain the spelling of his name for two and a half years, after the town of Quimper (Finistère, Brittany) refused to allow it to be registered with the letter “ñ”.

Yet, the baby had already had an ID card and passport created with the “ñ” letter.

(Photo: Le Parisien / @le_Parisien / Twitter)

The dispute led to a court case in Quimper, on the issue of “respect for the French language”.

In September 2017, the court found that to use the tilde would represent a “break with our State’s wish to maintain the unity of the country and equality [for all] without distinction of origin”.

The court referred to a list of 16 symbols and accents that are “known in the French language” and therefore are permitted to be used and legally recognised. These included the umlaut (for example, on the name Chloë) and the cedilla (used for the letter ç, as in François), but did not include the tilde.

Yet, in November 2018, the court of appeal in Rennes found that the use of the tilde did not damage “the principal of safeguarding public use of the French language”.

It said that the tilde was not “unknown in the French language”, because it was used in words such as “cañon" and “Doña”, and was also used in the names of other French people, such as that of junior interior minister, Laurent Nuñez.

The general prosecutor in Rennes had been set to launch a further appeal against the decision, but this was finally dismissed, and the Rennes ruling in favour of the family was upheld.

Lawyer for the family, Jean-René Kerloc'h, said: “The decree from the court of appeal in Rennes has become definitive. Now, it is going to be difficult to refuse the [use of the] tilde to another child.”

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