Wednesday, June 16, 2010

De, Duh, D'oh

As a Tocqueville scholar, I wince when he is referred to as "de Tocqueville." Pascal Riché ponders the grave question of the particule. The story is told that when de Gaulle (note the lower case "de") went to meet Giraud in Africa, Giraud, using the last name as generals do, addressed him as "Gaulle." De Gaulle corrected him ("De Gaulle, s'il vous plaît"), but not on the grounds cited by Riché and Grévisse, that the particule must remain with a name of one syllable (or of more than one syllable if it begins with a vowel: d'Ormesson). The "de" in de Gaulle was not an aristocratic particule at all, said the general. It was simply his name. Perhaps. Or perhaps his destiny: Charles de Gaul, as it were: "je me suis toujours fait une certaine idée de la France". This being June 16, the 70th anniversary of the infamous armistice, it seems worth remembering.


Anonymous said...

De Gaulle est en effet un nom sans particule, c'est un nom qui vient du Nord de la France.

Anonymous said...

I've always said "de Tocqueville". Didn't know it was a faux pas (or is that "faut pas"?)
I had always assumed ole' Alexis referred to himself as such, ie "de Tocqueville".

Chris P.