View Message

Subject: Attn. C.K. Evans: about Lilou
Author: Lumia   (Authenticated as Lumia)
Date: May 4, 2008 at 9:08:36 AM
Some time ago you asked in this board about the French name Lilou and if it was a Luc Besson's creation in his film The Fifth Element (1997) or it could be a Provençal nickname of Lilian, as someone claimed:

Since then, I made further researches about Lilou and its genesis.

On the one hand, the form Lilou is a French nickname used for names with the sound li (lee), mainly Aurélie and Amélie, but not limited to them: Aline, Élise, Élie, Coralie... and, of course, Liliane.

The use of the hypocoristic suffix ou (parallel to the Catalan ó and the Occitan ó [very often misspelled as *ou because of the French influence]) is attested in French nicknames: in feminine nicknames (Madeleine> Madou, Anne or Nadège > Nanou, Catherine > Catou...), in masculine nicknames (Jacques > Jacquou) and in nicknames of names with one masculine form and one feminine form (François and Françoise > Franchou, Michel and Michelle > Michou...).

So, although it is very possible that Liló (spelled Lilou in a French way) was used as nickname in Occitan for Liliana (and perhaps for more names), it is unquestionable that Lilou is also a French nickname.

I don't know if the use of this resort to make nicknames is more typical of some French dialects or of some areas (as it could be with uco and uca in Spanish), but the two first examples of use of Lilou in French literature that I have found are both from Belgium (two novels, one from 1939 and the other from 1952); the first literary use of it in France is from 1981 (Lilou-Nuage, by Jean-Pierre Thibaudat).

On the other hand, in her L'Officiel des prénoms, Stéphanie Rapoport claims that the first Lilou in France was born in 1994 (that is tree years before Besson's film); in that case, the apparition of Lilou could have been because of the trend of nicknames as first names (Téo, Léa, Tom...) or the trend of "Lou" names (Lou, Louane, Louanne, Lou-Anne...) or even some parents' invention that coincidentally matched with an existent name/nickname.

But, statistical data from INSEE (the French official source) show that any Lilou was registered in France before 1997, that is the year of The Fifth Element. Even Stéphanie Rapoport's website, which offers statistical data, shows that the first girls named Lilou were born in 1997 (same with Leeloo and Leelou). So there is an inconsistency between Rapoport's affirmations in her books (1994) and Rapoport's affirmations in her website and official data (1997). The easy explanation that I could imagine is that some girl born in 1994 had her name changed to Lilou after 1997 and the change didn't affect the statistical data; but, obviously, I don't have any evidence of that.

The official data for 1997 are: 19 girls named Lilou, 9 girls named Leeloo and 4 girls named Leelou (the spelling Lylou seems unknown until 1998, with 10 girls).


Messages in this thread: