(Traduction : Fiona Simpkins, MCF Civilisation britannique,
Speaker : Grégory Bozonnet, UMR CNRS 55206 Triangle, University of Lyon, Institut d’études politiques.
Topic : “Public Places Called After “Coluche”. On Choosing Anthroponymic Toponyms”
Summary : Since 21st June 1986, when Coluche was victim of a fatal motorcycle accident, seventy French towns have wished to pay a public tribute to a man alternatively presented as a contested comedian, an actor, a presidential candidate or the founder of the Restaurants du Coeur. His name was given to streets, squares, but also social centres and schools. These are cases of anthroponymic toponyms, whereby names of people are given to places, whether public or not, and especially street names or odonyms. The latter initially enabled travellers to find their bearings and were linked to the designated place. Little by little, they evolved from honouring local figures (wealthy owners, councillors...), to national glories, until they became completely disconnected from the territory thus named : anthroponymic toponyms are chosen according to the symbolical value attributed to the honoured name.
The qualities Coluche’s name seem to evoke twenty years after his death are first and foremost generosity and irreverence, which is what brought many left-wing French municipalities to confer his name to a public place. Although this choice usually originates in left-wing municipalities, it nevertheless remains consensual. Besides, the tributes paid to Coluche are generally set in a period of consensual effort : figures from artistic circles are now more often honoured than political glories, which was far from being the norm before the seventies. But as soon as the name Coluche is given to a location deemed too important in light of his career and background, the consensus shatters, as is the case of the Collège de Rougemont-le-Château (Territoire de Belfort) that bears the comedian’s name.
Keywords : Coluche, public tributes, odonymy, anthroponymic toponyms, political onomastics.