French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy
France’s highest administrative body has ruled that double-hyphenated, double-barrelled surnames such as Bruni–Sarkozy must be abolished after imposing the unwieldy spelling on tens of thousands of children in the past four years. But, France has backtracked on that ruling.
In 2005, the French state – famous for laying down rigid language rules – declared that all new double-barrelled surnames must be spelt with two hyphens: the offspring of Carla Bruni and Nicolas Sarkozy, would in theory take the surname Bruni–Sarkozy.
The idea was supposed to distinguish, for administrative reasons, between old double-barrelled names, like Sarkozy de Nagy-Bocsa – the French president’s full surname – and new, so-called “composed” names. These cropped up from 2002, when it became possible in France to simply create a “family name” by sticking together the mother’s and father’s surnames.
But parents horrified at the ugly double hyphen launched a crusade to overturn the decision.
The Conseil d’Etat, France’s highest administrative watchdog, has now sided with the single dash camp in a definitive ruling, saying the state had exceeded its legal powers and butchered the French language into the bargain with the double hyphen.
The government is expected to formally accept the ruling in the coming days.
Double-dashed offspring will then have the option of striking off a hyphen from their surname, or remaining grammatically incorrect for the rest of their lives.
The ruling concerns around 175,000 French children born since 2005 whose parents kept both their surnames.