Arnaud's Blog

Opinions on open source, standards, and other things

About my name and my struggle to get it said and written right

I’m French and have lived in the US for over 10 years now. Yet, even some of my closest colleagues still have trouble saying my name right. They usually get the first name alright but the last name often remains a problem so, I thought, as a small distraction from the OOXML raging debate, I would spend a few minutes talking about my name.

My first name is “Arnaud”. The way to pronounce it is “Arno”, or if you will “R-no”. Easy enough but many English speaking people keep wanting to say every letter and insist on saying the D when it is totally silent. In general the end letter is silent in French, and “au” is basically just like the letter O. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know, and I’m not especially a defender of the many irregularities and complexities of the French language.

When I first moved to the US and had to give my name in a restaurant to be put on the waiting list I used to spell my name so they would write it correctly. I quickly discovered that this was a big mistake because I would later fail to recognize my name when called. I now simply say “Arno”, which they often understand as “Arnold” (with the D I never say, mind you 🙂 – it’s amazing how our brains want to always match what we hear to something known. -) But that’s ok, it’s close enough for me to recognize when it is called later, which is all I care about in this case.

Now that I’m done with my first name, let’s get to my last name. My last name is “Le Hors”. This one is tougher and in fact even French people have trouble with it. I’ll explain why later but first, let me insist on the fact that it is in two words.

This is actually not that uncommon in many parts of the world but for some reason people in the US seem to have a major problem dealing with last names of more than one word. It is a constant struggle to keep my name as two words.

People always seem to want to either attach it as in “LeHors” or as in “Le-Hors”. It’s neither. The fact that many names are spelled in one word even though they were clearly two initially, such as “McDonald” or “McTracy”, is a testimony that many did give in on keeping their names in two words at one point in time. Maybe my son will too one day, if he stays in the US, but I won’t.

A related problem I discovered while insisting on having my last name written in two words is that people reading “Arnaud Le Hors” then wrongly infer that “Le” is my middle name and address me as “Mr Hors”.

Of course, it’s understandable in a country where so many names are so common that people must use their middle name to try and differentiate themselves, but in my case it’s just another trap. To prevent that I now often write my middle initial, as in “Arnaud J Le Hors”, which clues people in. Some still get it wrong though.

I also try to put two spaces between my first name and last name, as in “Arnaud Le Hors”. But more than often computer programs collapse the two spaces in one, defeating my attempt [Update: looks like wordpress does exactly that as a matter of fact, I can’t seem to figure out the right escape sequence to get two hardcoded whitespaces…]. In fact, computer programs that are developed in the US by people who make the same typical assumptions often garble my name one way or another.

Whether at the drugstore or at the car rental my name often reads as “Hors A”, “Le A”, or some similar variation, on the display panels. And because airline companies and travel agencies handle the two words differently I often have trouble with non matching frequent flyer numbers, etc.

Back to the pronunciation, the way to say my last name is “Luh Oarss”. It took me a while to figure this one out with help from a couple of American friends but having tested it on several occasions I’m now confident that, when said with an American pronunciation, it leads to the write sound. (Special note: Come on, Bob, try it a couple of times, I’m sure you can do it. 😉

The H is silent and the S at the end is pronounced. That’s where the French too have difficulties. See, as I previously said “in general the end letter is silent in French”. So, most French people don’t say the S.

But my name is not really French. It is from the north west part of France, called Britany (“Bretagne”) which had its own language and my name used be spelled “An Horz”. After the French revolution, all the names from Britany were translated to French in an effort to unify the various regions of France. The “An”, which is an article just like the English “An”, was thus translated to the French article “Le”. In the process the Z was changed to an S and since then the spelling no longer quite matches the pronunciation.

All my life in France, starting from primary school up to now, I’ve had to correct people’s pronunciation – “it’s not ‘Le Hor’, it’s ‘Le HorSS'” – and correct people who systematically write my name as “Le Horse” even when I spell it to them – “No E at then end”!

Sometimes I envy my cousins who live in Britany where local knowledge shields them from all these troubles, but I wouldn’t trade the Californian sunny weather for the rainy weather of Britany, even though the coasts of Britany are some of the most beautiful regions I’ve seen.

So there, you have the whole story now, and probably more than you care to know. Standard program to resume shortly. (pun intended) 🙂


March 21, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. “…more than often computer programs collapse the two spaces in one…”

    For HTML and XML at least, this is deliberate behaviour so the markup can be nicely laid out without disturbing the content. Tries to be intuitive, but ends up rather complex, see:

    In an HTML-with-CSS context, a way to be picky about the spacing of your name (…guessing the correct level of escaping for this comment…) would be:

    “I also try to put two spaces between my
    first name and last name, as in ‘<span
    style=”white-space: pre;”>Arnaud Le Hors’.”

    People also use the character U+00A0 to force insert some whitespace, but that’s got its own problems.

    Anyway, the issue I really care about, if I were looking for a book by you in the library, should I be checking the H or the L section?

    Comment by anon | March 21, 2008 | Reply

  2. Nearly! Just needed the closing </span> not to be eaten and no smart-quote mangling.

    Comment by anon | March 21, 2008 | Reply

  3. Maybe you’re right. I didn’t try that one but I don’t think wordpress would keep the double space anyway.

    Given my background with the HTML and XML specs I’m quite familiar with this sort of things. I don’t want to sound arrogant but you don’t seem to have noticed that my name is on the cover of the HTML 4.0 spec. 😉

    The problem with wordpress seems to be that it doesn’t preserve the input the way it is entered and all my attempts to make it do the right thing have failed. Whether I used the WYSIWYG editor or the HTML editor. Even double escaping with numeric character references didn’t work.

    And for what it’s worth I also entered the space in my last name as a non breakable space (“nbsp”) as a character entity reference because that’s really the way it should be to ensure that a renderer doesn’t ever break the two words over two lines but wordpress swallowed that one too!

    I’ll admit that there may be a way around wordpress behavior but after about 10 different attempts I gave up.

    As for your question, my name would be listed under L, not H.

    Thanks for your interest!

    Comment by Arnaud Le Hors | March 21, 2008 | Reply

  4. Ha! I knew your name was familiar from somewhere else, funny I missed that. Ah well, provided a bit of linked context for some of these oddities to other readers, if not the badly-designed-Wordpress-sanitation-code ones.

    Thanks for the answer on the collation front, was not what I had guessed…

    Comment by anon | March 21, 2008 | Reply

  5. In French I think the only the names that are sorted by their second word are names that start with the particle “de”, such as “de Beaulieu”.

    Note the lower case “de”. These are names of people from the former noble French class. In the phone book you would find “de Beaulieu” under B rather than D.

    For what it’s worth I come from a humble family of peasants so “Le”, unlike “de”, doesn’t denote a former French noble family. I like to think we are noble in other ways though. 😉

    Comment by Arnaud Le Hors | March 22, 2008 | Reply

  6. And anyway, de hors would probably to be found outdoor, not in a library… 😉

    By the way, I am French, and dehors is likely part of the reason why I would have spoken your name wrong.

    Comment by bof | March 23, 2008 | Reply

  7. Bof:

    This reminds me that a cousin of mine used to say that what he dreaded most in school was to hear “Le Hor dehor!” (“Le Hors dehors!” in which both S were silent, which means “Le Hors out!”) which from what he said was quite frequent in his case.


    Comment by Arnaud Le Hors | March 23, 2008 | Reply

  8. Thank-you for a very interesting diversion.

    I find that capitalising ones surname, or listing it first can help people work it out e.g.

    Arnaud LE HORS
    Le Hors, Arnaud

    or even combine both

    LE HORS, Arnaud J.

    Capitalising (using majuscule letters) is also useful for indicating your surname (family name) in cultures where the family’s name comes first, like in China or Korea; or where family names are not obviously different to first/christian/given names, such as in India.

    Arabic names are another challenge altogether: the scholar known in the West as ‘Alhacen’ had a full name of Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥasan ibn al-Haytham. I would not like to have to explain kunya, ism, nasab, nisba and laqab to the average westerner.


    Comment by Päl | March 26, 2008 | Reply

  9. Arnaud, I think you can use &#160 to get an extra space if you’re using the HTML editor. I do know that if you use &nbsp;, Feedburner will complain that your feed is invalid.

    I have to admit that I never recognized your name from the spec.

    Comment by lnxwalt | April 17, 2008 | Reply

  10. Arnaud, although my name is no longer LE HORS, I do understand you. The struggle you went through was the same for Pierre-Marie , Jean-Lou or Clo. And in my own country mariannick sounded always peculiar, people spelling and pronouncing it in so many different ways even at some extent assuming that t was a man …But now I have become a Spens and I experiment the same problem in France, people calling me Spence, Spencer de Spense… life is so, we are the same inside but we are so different in other’s people sight or understanding.
    . affectueusement et avec tout Mon support familial mariannick

    Comment by Anonymous | July 26, 2016 | Reply

    • Salut Mariannick and thank you for your comment! 🙂
      I can see how Spens can be similarly challenging in France!

      Comment by Arnaud Le Hors | July 27, 2016 | Reply

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