Geopolitics

From Gontran To Adolf, The Influence Of Name Choice

Some believe names represent more than just a matter of taste, that they destine people to certain fates. But most everyone can agree that certain names are simply bad choices.

What's in a name?
What's in a name?
Marie-Pierre Genecand

-Essay-

GENEVA â€" They thought about "Agathe," but they chose "Romane" instead because it's more combative, more defiant. An empire for a little girl, that should be enough. We all know one or two Lucies, which is a luminous first name, nice in all seasons, and even more radiant in winter. Who's met a Gontran? Or a Gonzague?

First names. If you're like me, introducing acquaintances to your loved one, even people who have been longtime friends, can be hellish. You recognize and appreciate the person, but then you go blank. You just can't remember their name. I have a theory about this inexplicable handicap. It's not age, but instead something more Freudian. I think I forget first names because I don't like my own. It's too long, too bossy, and there are too many Rs. When I was little, I dreamt about being called Sonia. Or Lina, like my grandmother.

I swore that my first child's name would have at least three As, whether I had a daughter or a son. It seems like a good way to introduce a newborn to the world and to ensure an a cappella life. This is indeed how it's been. "My little one is like water, she's like flowing water. She runs like a stream that the other children chase," as the opening lyrics to French singer Guy Béart's song "L'Eau expand=1] vive" go. In more concrete terms, my oldest child studies socio-anthropology in a European capital that has just been shaken by a tragedy. I couldn't have hoped for a better name.

Photo: Quinn Dombrowski

Now comes the question that every future parent thinks about with a mix of anxiety and excitement. Does a name shape a person? Does it have the power to influence the course of life? I think it does. And all the first-name dictionaries think so too. An Irène won't live the same life as a Lola. A Jean-Albert will simply have a different trajectory than a Matteo. Or, as Quebec singer Linda Lemay sings in "Alphonse," "an Alphonse won't launch into business/He will be fooled/Even if daddy was successful, Alphonse will start from scratch."

Of course, rational people will say that there can be coward Pierres and brave Pierres. Expressive Alexandres and discreet Alexandres. Joking Bernards and serious Bernards. I don't disagree with them. But there is one truth we can all agree on: There are forbidden names. The superb film What's in a Name? proved it brilliantly with "Adolf," which is indeed difficult to bear.

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Future

How Facebook's Metaverse Could Undermine Europe's Tech Industry

Mark Zuckerberg boasted that his U.S. tech giant will begin a hiring spree in Europe to build his massive "Metaverse." Touted as an opportunity for Europe, the plans could poach precious tech talent from European tech companies.

Carl-Johan Karlsson

PARIS — Facebook's decision to recruit 10,000 people across the European Union might be branded as a vote of confidence in the strength of Europe's tech industry. But some European companies, which are already struggling to fill highly-skilled roles such as software developers and data scientists, are worried that the tech giant might make it even harder to find the workers that power their businesses.


Facebook's new European staff will work as part of its so-called "metaverse," the company's ambitious plan to venture beyond its current core business of connected social apps.

Shortage of French developers

Since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his more maximalist vision of Facebook in July, the concept of the metaverse has quickly become a buzzword in technology and business circles. Essentially a sci-fi inspired augmented reality world, the metaverse will allow people to interact through hardware like augmented reality (AR) glasses that Zuckerberg believes will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones.

The ambition to build what promoters claim will be the successor to the mobile internet comes with a significant investment, including multiplying the 10% of the company's 60,000-strong workforce currently based in Europe. The move has been welcomed by some as a potential booster for the continent's tech market.

Eight out of 10 French software companies say they can't find enough workers.

"In a number of regions in Europe there are clusters of pioneering technology companies. A stronger representation of Facebook can support this trend," German business daily Handelsblatt notes.

And yet the enthusiasm isn't shared by everyone. In France, company leaders worry that Facebook's five-year recruiting plan will dilute an already limited talent pool, with eight out of 10 French software companies already having difficulties finding staff, daily Les Echos reports.

The profile of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg displayed on a smartphone

Cris Faga / ZUMA

Teleworking changes the math

There is currently a shortage of nearly 10,000 computer engineers in France, with developers being the most sought-after, according to a recent study by Numéum, the main employers' consortium of the country's digital sector.

Facebook has said its recruiters will target nations including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and Ireland, without mentioning specific numbers in any country. But the French software sector, which has so far managed to retain 59% of its workforce, fears that its highly skilled and relatively affordable young talent will be fertile recruiting grounds — especially since the pandemic has ushered in a new era of teleworking.

Facebook's plan to build its metaverse comes at a time when the nearly $1-trillion company faces its biggest scandal in years over damning internal documents leaked by a whistleblower, as well as mounting antitrust scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators. Still, as the sincerity of Zuckerberg's quest is underscored by news that the pivot might also come with a new company name, European software companies might want to start thinking about how to keep their talent in this universe.

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