French law requires that a purebred dog or cat – that is, an animal belonging to one of the breeds listed in the Livre des origines français or the Livre officiel des origins felines – be given a name beginning with a prescribed letter of the alphabet, determined by the year of its birth, rather like the way British car registration plates used to be organised.
The alphabetised system began in 1926, with Z omitted. In 1972 the Commission Nationale d’Amélioration Génétique further regularised the system, and K, Q, W, X and Y were also taken out of contention. The advice is very detailed. You can, if you wish, give your pet another name for everyday use but most people seem to stick to just one. Friends of mine who make jam in Picardy, and always have at least two terriers about the place, name their dogs after fruit: last year’s crop of puppies included Fraise and Framboise; this year they’ll have to go for Groseille.
If you can’t think of a name, you can ask your vet for a list of fifty or so; online, of course, there are thousands to choose from. One of the suggestions this year is Gillian – such an unattractive name, and so singularly impossible to pronounce in any language other than English. Others include Guerlain, Givenchy, Gloop, Granola and Gen Gis Khan. But if you’d like to call your pet Kubla Khan, King Kong or Kevin you can always move to Belgium, where the Livre des origines Saint-Hubert features K as the chosen letter for 2011.