Nicknames

Entre 1950 et 1960, naissent les premières « stars » de la pétanque. Cette dernière prend son essor sous l’impulsion d’Alphonse Baldi, dit « Le Bombardier Toulonnais », de François Bezza dit « Besse » et du fameux Ange Arcolao, dit « Bebert de Cagnes ». Ce dernier est d’ailleurs le premier à avoir  une carrière de plusieurs décennies.

Entre 1950 et 1960, naissent les premières « stars » de la pétanque. Cette dernière prend son essor sous l’impulsion d’Alphonse Baldi, dit « Le Bombardier Toulonnais », de François Bezza dit « Besse » et du fameux Ange Arcolao, dit « Bébert de Cagnes ». Ce dernier est d’ailleurs le premier à avoir une carrière de plusieurs décennies.

According to legend, Jules le Noir — who was the inspiration for the invention of petanque — was actually named Jules Hugues. “le Noir” was a nickname.

As Jon Bryant pointed out in an article called “Game of Life” (in France Magazine, original date unknown but probably July 2010) —

Nicknames used to be a big thing in boules. In most provençal villages, there would be a man known as Le Pendule (presumably for his regular arm swing) or Le Vieux (presumably as he’s been playing longer than anyone can remember) who was undefeated for over a decade and is still talked about by the locals.

Armand Vidal, who has written a dictionary of boule terms, laments the loss of the nickname. He writes that in the final of the Provençal tournament in 1909, all six men carried an official nickname — there was Le Blond, Petit Paul, Parpelet, Le Mecanicien. By 1931, only three of the six finalists had a recognizable sobriquet, and by 1976 only one finalist — so-called Bambi — was so distinguished.

Is the game getting more serious? Is too much money involved? Has the pace of life changed so much that there’s no impetus to label someone as anything but their own surname?

DictionnaireDeJeuDeBoules_ArmandVidalVidal’s book is Dictionnaire du jeu de boules: Tel qu’on le parle en Provence (Jeanne Laffitte, 1999) — toutes les expressions provençales du jeu de boules (boule provençale et pétanque), avec un index.


For more information about nicknames, see this and the last few pages of this.


If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy some of our other history posts.


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2 thoughts on “Nicknames

  1. Many of the best known petanque players of today are also known by their nicknames, here are a few that come to mind:
    Bruno La Boursicaud = Niglo,
    Dylan Rocher = Benji,
    Kevin Malbec = Danny,
    Stephane Robineau = Robi,
    Michel Loy = Mimi
    and
    Jean Francois Hemon = Tichon.

  2. It strikes me that perhaps the word I wanted was not “nickname” but something altogether more interesting — a sobriquet. If you call someone named Edward, “Ted”, you’re using a nickname. But if you call Edward Teach “Blackbeard”… well, that’s something much more interesting. THAT is a sobriquet!

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