List of Names and Terms of Address Used For Charles De Gaulle - Names in Current Use

Names in Current Use

  • Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle: This is the formal full name of de Gaulle, the one used in his birth, marriage, and death certificates, the one used for official purposes when he was alive, such as for passports or other identity documents. This full name is never used in France nowadays. It does not even appear in French encyclopedias or dictionaries.
  • Charles de Gaulle: This is the regular name that de Gaulle used in everyday life, the name that is used in French encyclopedias and dictionaries, official documents, the name used when French people show a list of all their former presidents, etc.
  • le général de Gaulle: This name originates from the promotion of de Gaulle to provisional brigadier general by Prime Minister Paul Reynaud in May 1940. After his rebellion in June 1940, de Gaulle never returned into the army, and became a political figure, thus never advancing to higher ranks of general. When he was prime minister or president he always refused to promote himself to higher ranks. Thus, one of the most famous French generals remained only a two-star general (as in France brigadier generals have two stars). De Gaulle was very much attached to his military past, and during his political career he often appeared with his two-star general's uniform, especially during critical moments such as the Putsch of Algiers in 1961. It was quite funny for French people to see a two-star general commending authority over five-star generals. Indeed, during the Second World War, two-star general de Gaulle had been scorned by five-star generals who remained faithful to Vichy France. This may explain why de Gaulle remained attached to his two-star status, which was reminding the days of the Free French during the war.
    In France, le général de Gaulle is now the most widely used term to refer to de Gaulle. Most avenues or streets which are called after de Gaulle use this term (e.g. avenue du général de Gaulle), but there are some exceptions, such as Charles de Gaulle Airport (aéroport de Roissy-Charles de Gaulle). In left-wing municipalities, when naming streets, Charles de Gaulle is sometimes preferred over général de Gaulle, a term that has always irked the left, even though it is used all across the political spectrum nowadays. People who itch at the military, or who want to distance themselves from de Gaulle, use Charles de Gaulle instead of général de Gaulle. Charles de Gaulle is supposedly more neutral, but général de Gaulle is now so widely accepted that using Charles de Gaulle in conversation definitely carries a feeling of distance, or covert criticism. One could guess the feeling of someone toward Gaullism simply by watching whether they use général de Gaulle or Charles de Gaulle.
  • le Président de Gaulle was mainly used in formal circumstances when he was president.
  • le Général ("the general"): This is used by people most devoted to de Gaulle, especially people who personally knew him, or worked under him. This was the term used by the ministers of de Gaulle when they referred to him in private. They would never have said le président. There is a feeling of partisanship (and now, nostalgia) attached to the word, and the left would never have used it. In France, when the phrase le général is used alone, it is almost always understood as meaning de Gaulle. This phrase is nowadays hardly ever used except by elderly Gaullist supporters.
  • mon général: This was used by ministers of de Gaulle and by his close supporters when addressing de Gaulle, but also by most journalists in the regular press interviews he gave ever since 1944. The left would have used Monsieur le président instead.
  • mongénéral: This was, and still is, used by satirical publications such as the Canard Enchaîné to caricature the devotion and, according to those publications, blind obedience and ideologic conformity that de Gaulle's followers had.
  • de Gaulle: This is used nowadays to refer to de Gaulle as a historical character, often with a tone of praise or respect, such as recent book C'était de Gaulle ("Thus was de Gaulle"). In colloquial conversation, a Frenchman could say: "De Gaulle, c'était quelqu'un ! " ("De Gaulle, now that was a man!"). In French, calling someone by their family name alone is considered derogatory when they are alive, but it is considered normal for historical figures when they are dead.
  • Monsieur Charles de Gaulle or Monsieur de Gaulle: This is never used. The last time it was used, probably, was when de Gaulle was in high school in the 1900s. His professors would have addressed him as Monsieur de Gaulle in formal circumstances, and as de Gaulle alone in informal circumstances. After high school, de Gaulle entered the military, and so he was addressed by his military rank at the time, followed by de Gaulle (lieutenant de Gaulle, etc.)

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