Nicks at Night

Nicholas W. F-R. Dungan is president of the French-American Foundation. We’re not sure what Mr. Dungan’s impressive middle initials stand for, but his first name formed a sub-plot at the French-American Association’s 30th Anniversary Gala at the Four Seasons restaurant. It kept popping up in conversation. There was a photographer from Agence France Presse also by the name of Nicholas. “I’m from Missourah,” the photographer said. His middle name is David. “I was named after Nicholas from ‘Eight is Enough.'” That television series, about the motherless Bradford clan, ran from 1977 to ’81. Nick – he prefers the nickname (“I’m ‘Nicholas’ on paper.”) – was born in 1979. He doesn’t speak French. But he’s learning German, just in case his girlfriend of six years, the lovely Jana, surname Meier (“Her last name is the equivalent of our” – our – “Smith.”), originally from Germany, insists on returning there once her U.S. visa runs out.

Marie-Noëlle Pierce, a self-assured Franco-American (French father, American mother – she carries both passports) who is a director at the Foundation, ascended the stairs in a scorching red gown with a dramatic train. Her associate from the French office, clad in sensible shoes, stepped on it. “I heard a pop in the back,” Ms. Pierce said moments later between sips of Pellegrino. She was steely yet jovial, an uncommon mix of emotions. “I hope it’s going to hold up and I don’t have a malfunction.”

Something set her off on the topic of French Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy. “He’s going to split the vote on the right,” she said. But even more alarming is the story that recently ran in the Guardian, the British newspaper, in which Mr. Sarkozy’s first name was Anglicized; an “h” was added where there should be none! Oh, never mind. The name Nicolas was the 21st most popular male name in France for the 20th century (Jean was the most popular). At the beginning of 2006, Nicolas’ accounted for 376,946 registered French males. By contrast, or rather, au contraire, the choice of Nicholas as a name for American-born males has been spotty. In 1994, after placing outside the Top 10 for several years, it reentered at number six and held on there, some years slipping to seven, until getting knocked out again in 2003. (Note to AFP photographer Nick: in 1991, the names David and Nicholas tied for eighth place. You were a trailblazer!)

The Transom (check the name on our byline) ran into a couple of reporters from Source Media/Thomson Financial. And, by George, didn’t one of them know our buddy, Nicholas Chesla, managing editor of The Bond Buyer, a Thomson newspaper. Nicholas is Australian, with a Polish father and English mother. “But have you met the boyfriend?” his curious cubicle-mate enquired.

Julian Niccolini, co-owner of the Four Seasons, engaged the two female reporters in conversation. The cocktail hour was drawing to a close and guests were being ushered into the dining room. Mr. Niccolini took leave of them to oversee the transition, but one of the women trailed behind him. She placed a hand on his pinstriped shoulder. “Wait, who are you?” she demanded. “What’s your name and who are you?”

– Nicholas Boston