Daily Life in New France



J.C.B. then received his nom de guerre, Jolicoeur, a small detail that enabled him to be identified as Joseph-Charles Bonin, known as Jolicoeur, a gunner in the Compagnie des canonniers-bombardiers of Canada. 81 The use of nicknames was widespread at the time, quite frequent among civilians in the lower classes and almost universal among French soldiers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Since it was not uncommon for these monikers to totally supplant soldiers' names, they were recorded in the official rolls after 1716 alongside the actual first names and surnames. This tended to further entrench the use of these nicknames.

The variety and frequent double meanings of nicknames make it almost impossible to categorize them systematically. In general, however, there were six main types, all referring to personal characteristics of the soldier to whom they referred. Sometimes "Saint" was simply added to the soldiers' surnames or first names, or possibly to those of their mothers. For instance the soldier "Jacques Vadeau" became "Saint-Jacques." Nicknames referring to regions of origin were also common, for instance Champagne, Poitevin and Picard referred to French provinces. They could also indicate particular trades, for instance "Lacouture" ("Needlework"), "Boulanger" ("Baker") or "La Flamme" ("Flame") for someone who had a cookhouse. Other nicknames alluded to soldiers' past military experience, such as "Carignan." Nicknames referring to plants were very fashionable, such as "Laframboise" ("Raspberry"), "Lafleur" ("Flower"), "Larose" ("Rose"), or "Latulippe" ("Tulip"). Finally, some nicknames were based on personal characteristics. Some were physical such as "Blondin" ("Blond"), "Le Borgne" ("One-eye"), or "Lajeunesse" ("Youth"), but more frequently they referred to personality such as "Léveillé" ("Lively"), "Vadeboncoeur" ("Goes-with-goodheart"), and "Brind'amour" ("Bit-of-love"). They bear witness to the joie de vivre and the gallantry of some of these men. Their more warlike traits found expression in such names as "Tranchemontagne" ("Slice-mountain"), "Frappe-d'abord" ("Strike-first") and "Vaillant" ("Valiant"). Many French Canadian surnames of today were once the nicknames of discharged soldiers who remained in Canada.