FR: capitalization of last names

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by ReadingForPleasure, Oct 4, 2007.

  1. ReadingForPleasure Senior Member

    English, U.S.

    I'm translating a certificate and am having trouble figuring out if something is a first or last name. Neither name makes a particularly "traditional" first or last name. I'm under the impression that, in French, the last name usually goes in all capital letters on official documents - ex. Prénom NOM. On this medical certificate, all of the doctors' names follow this format - Docteur Xxxx YYYY. However, for the patient's name, the first word is in all caps - ex. XXXX Yyyy. Should I guess that XXXX is the first name, because it comes first, or that it is the last name, because it is written in all capital letters? And can anyone guess why the capitalization used for the doctors' names is different than that used for the patient's?

    I realize that this might be a simple question, but it's giving me a lot of trouble. I'd appreciate any help. Merci beaucoup d'avance!

    : )
  2. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I have often seen French names in reverse order, NOM Prénom.
  3. ReadingForPleasure Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    Thank you, Outsider. I have seen them in reverse order, too, but I was confused why they would be in one order for the doctors' names and in another order for the patient's name. Oh well...

  4. bpipoly

    bpipoly Senior Member

    English, United States
    It is because of the use of a title. When you are making a list of names or on official records, a person name is often NOM Prénom. When you have to give the person's title, you have to place it in "standard" order Docteur Prénom NOM. In either case, what is in all caps is the person's last name (NOM). The order NOM Prénom is a holdover from the Nazi occupation of France, or so I am told.
  5. Sisal Senior Member

    France French
    All official documents in France have this order : Nom, prénom (for instance, I refer to my grand-grand father's birth certificate; he was born in 1874 ( some time before the birth of the first nazi), so I don't believe it is a heritage from the nazis :)
  6. bpipoly

    bpipoly Senior Member

    English, United States
    Was his last name in all caps as well? May the person (who is French) was just referring the capitalization and I did not catch the entire sentence.
  7. mfoxfjc2 Senior Member

    England and English
    Dear all,

    I have a general question which has been troubling me for some time.

    In French, it is common practice to write the surnames (and sometimes the firstnames) completely in uppercase. Should this convention be carried through in translation, or does it depend on the genre of text?

    In addition the first and surnames are sometimes switched in French, should this switching be maintained?

    I suspect that this is largely subjective, but I am interested to hear people's opinions.

  8. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    No and no.

    When you translate, you write, so far as is possible, in the correct style of the target language. To do otherwise would be to make out that your author uses bad style; you can't expect the reader to make allowances for usage in a foreign language of which he may have no knowledge.

    Since it is bad style in English for me to say that my name is Keith BRADFORD (sounds like arrogant shouting) or Bradford Keith (sounds like an American called Brad Keith), I would not translate DUPONT Henri as anything other than Henri Dupont.

    Sole exception: I might make an exception at the beginning of a legal document stating the names of the protagonists, since an English legal document might do likewise. But not in the body of the text.

    Same applies to place-names, company names, etc. La société TOTAL => Total. Il habite 10 rue de la Paix - PARIS => He lives at 10, Rue de la Paix, Paris.
  9. mfoxfjc2 Senior Member

    England and English
    Thanks everyone, this thread has really helped me!

    Have a great weekend!

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