Friday, December 7, 2012

Diverted by a Name: Cosette

Illustration of Cosette in the Thénardiers' inn at Montfermeil depicted by Émile Bayard via Wikipedia

The newest musical version of Les Misérables is set to hit the screens on Christmas Day in the United States and musical fans are all abuzz. I admit, I have never seen the musical or read the book, but all the hype has forced me to do a little research. The story is captivating, the music is amazing, and the names are diverting. While Fantine, Éponine, and Marius are all intriguing monikers, I was especially diverted by none other than the name of the child/young woman at the center of it all: Cosette.

Cosette is a French name and could possibly be a feminized version of Nicholas or a pet name for Nicole. It's meaning is dubious... some say it's "victorious" due to its possible connection to Nicholas while others say it's "little thing." The author of Les Misérables, Victor Hugo, is said to have created it from "chosette" (little thing), which would be something a mother might call her child. Since the character's given name was Euphrasie and Cosette was just her nickname, that derivation seems most plausible.

In 2011, 75 girls were named Cosette in the US. It started making an appearance in 1912, when 5 girls were given the name, but it generally stayed around 20 girls per year at the most until the 1990s when it gradually rose until reaching its height at 85 in 2009. If you are looking at variations of the name, 16 girls were named Cozette and 6 were named Cossette in 2011. Yet another variation is Cosetta. Cute nicknames for Cosette include Coco, Cozy, or even Etta.

Frankly, I'm surprised it isn't more popular. It has a very feminine and pretty feel to it, and would go along the lines of other -ette names: Annette, Antoinette, Bernadette, Bridget, Colette, Harriet, Josette, Juliet, Lisette, Lynette, Margaret, Scarlet, Violet. I understand that Cosette has a negative connotation in France and its use is avoided there because the name gives the impression of a "poor and unlucky girl who invokes pity." But unless you live in France and/or think that possible association would bother you, you could choose to see the name as representing a character that overcame a lot to eventually marry the love of her life. In any case, Cosette is a beautiful name deserving serious consideration.

What are your thoughts on Cosette?

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