WHOOOWOW that is a big order
But here, I have done what I can !
Notes: This is more or less in the order of character appearance.I’ve only included puns and references , not direct translations or name meanings (like “Felix” meaning “lucky”). I also haven’t sourced everything, because then I would really take forever answering this’; I’ve tried to get SOME sources linked in; if there’s any source someone’s especially curious about, let me know and I’ll add it.
ALSO I am in NO way saying this is a complete list of references or puns. I know right now Im’, missing some really good references about Fantine and Eponine! It is possible it will never be complete. But if anyone would like to help complete it, and sees a reference or a joke I’ve missed, please message me and let me know! I want to know about these things too!
Anyway. Here goes:
This is great! Fantine, I’m pretty sure, is derivative of enfant or enfantin (child or childish). She’s a stray kid on the streets, people just call her “kid”, eventually some version of that becomes her name.
Éponine is the French version of Eponina, wife of Julius Sabinus, who was a leader of the Gauls. Sabinus led a revolt against the Roman Empire, lost, and became a fugitive. Eponina visited him in secret, and sought a pardon for him, but he was caught and executed. Eponina then demanded the Roman emperor Vespasian execute her too, and he obliged. The story became popular in late 18th and 19th century France, and inspired many creative works, including a novel, plays, and an opera. Wikipedia (linked above) says its appeal was due to its connotations of “wifely virtue, patriotism and anti-imperialism.” So, a really obvious reference there! There’s probably something subversive about Hugo applying the story of a virtuous Roman matron to a girl who’d be considered a common criminal in her society, too.
Oooh! Yay for all of the puns! And other origins.
Oh I can help with the Enjolras bit! It’s originally an Occitan name so the actual meaning comes from Occitan enjeura = to terrify. But it also happens to sound a LOT like the French word enjôler = to charm. Also the Enj part is pronounced like ange = angel.
In other words:
“Enjolras was a charming young man, who was capable of being terrible. He was angelically handsome.”
Victor Hugo you cheaky devil you.
As for the Jeanne part… I really doubt that. Enj is the phonological palindrome of Jean (this was pointed out by the annotated edition of Les Mis that I own) but to have anything to do with Jeanne there would have to be an n sound somewhere. (I don’t even think the Jean link is very likely. But it would make it sound pretty funny if his first name was Jean
which it probably is let’s face it.)
I don’t know about Courf puns but I do know that there’s a castle called Fayrac (pronounced exactly the same as Feyrac) in
Castelnaud-la-Chapelle in Dordogne and another one in
Beynac-et-Cazenac and possibly even another one in La Roque-Gageac. EDIT: Or… in fact more probably now that I found all these three communes on the map: it’s the same castle.
Also cour means either courtyard or court so both relate to a castle. In any case I’ve been told by at least two actual French people that it’s a very obviously Gascon name… if you ever wondered which area of France Courfeyrac was from (aside from just generally the south).
So, I’ve been digging around about the Fayrac castle. The castle was a part of the lands of the comte de Périgord.
The comtes de Périgord belonged to the House of Talleyrand (hence the name de Talleyrand-Périgord).
If Courf’s using the castle name as territorial designation/surname, then he’s related to Talleyrand
#let me repeat #courfeyrac is related to talleyrand #i don’t even know if that’s better or worse than my headcanon of courf being lafayette’s reckless reprobate of a grandson #who used to idolise him as a child then slowly grew disillusioned with his grandfather over time #culminating in courf cutting off all their ties after what he did in ‘30 #but a courfeyrac related to talleyrand #this opens a whole new can of worms #which i do actually want to touch with a ten-foot metal pole #maybe that’s where courf got his thing with the ladies? #but i digress #because their political opinions are so vastly different #that is #if talleyrand even has a permanent political opinion #jesus #this is looking to be more promising than a laf/courf familial dynamic #les mis