Small towns around Dijon: the story behind “Thil” & “Tille”

Small towns around Dijon: the story behind “Thil” & “Tille”

If you come visit or move here, you will probably hear weird sounds to refer to some villages and small towns:

  • Thil pronounced “ti-le” like in “hostile”, “subtil”, “volatile”, etc.
  • Tille pronounced “ti-ye” like in “famille”, “gentille”, “myrtille”, “Camille”, etc.


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Thil (= linden tree)

Around Dijon, 5 cities are named with “Thil”: Aisy-sous-Thil, Marcigny-sous-Thil, Nan-sous-Thil, Précy-sous-Thil, Vic-sous-Thil.


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Toponymy is really interesting: the word “sous” means “under” so basically, it implies that these towns are under this “Thil” thing!

In the old days, “Thil” would refer to a linden tree so it is actually quite poetic

We can assume that lots of Linden trees of Sully still exist here (source)! Did you know that this tree was named after Sully, Secretary of King Henri IV (16th-17th)? Indeed, he wanted linden trees being planted everywhere in the villages, in front of the church or on main square.

A linden tree in Chaignay, 20km from Dijon, certified as a remarkable tree
(source: “Côte-d’Or : le tilleul de Chaignay a reçu le label d’arbre remarquableFrance 3 Bourgogne Franche-Comté – 03/09/2018)

There is also a famous local family with the name “Thil” starting with Miles de Thil, founder of the priory of Précy-sous-Thil in 1007. Nowadays, you still have many people out there named with “Thil” but with different assumptions about the origin (source: Geneanet.com).

Tille (= waterway)

River Tille (length: 82,7km) takes its source in the east of France and runs through 26 towns in Côte-d’Or: Salives, Barjon, Avot, Marey-sur-Tille, Villey-sur-Tille, Crécey-sur-Tille, Échevannes, Til-Châtel, Lux, Spoy, Beire-le-Chatel, Arceau, Arc-sur-Tille, Remilly-sur-Tille, Cessey-sur-Tille, Genlis, Pluvault, Champdôtre, Les Maillys.

Let’s notice that some are named with “Tille” and others not… Another mystery…

Anyway, 10 cities near Dijon are named after this river: Arc-sur-Tille, Bressey-sur-Tille, Cessey-sur-Tille, Crécey-sur-Tille, Is-sur-Tille, Magny-sur-Tille, Marcilly-sur-Tille, Marey-sur-Tille, Remilly-sur-Tille, Villey-sur-Tille.


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Let’s notice here the word “sur” — meaning “on” — implying that these places are located alongside the river. The word “tille” itself used to refer to a waterway in local language and after that, only one of the waterways kept the common noun which became a proper noun!

So now you know something that even French people living here don’t!

As a conclusion, we can’t help but notice that the word “tille” looks like the french word for linden tree: “tilleul”. There is no coincidence here: in old french, tille or theille refers to a rope made of linden tree bark (source: Centre national de ressources textuelles et lexicales).

We end up realizing that « Thil » and « Tille » have a very close meaning and both help us dream about the countryside not that far from Dijon…

Are there such stories behind names of cities in your country? Share with us below!

Meet Emiko, a Japanese in Dijon (with subs)

Meet Emiko, a Japanese in Dijon (with subs)

Recently, I was lucky enough to meet Emiko Shibata, Teacher of Japanese, who lives in Dijon since the 1980’s. Born in Kyoto, she came in France to graduate in Lettres Modernes and after teaching French in Japan, she came back here to teach Japanese!

We talked about her life, how she met dozens of french students yearning to learn japanese language and culture and of course her opinion about Dijon and French people.

Since she experienced both the way of life in Japan and in France, she knows how to take a step back on stereotypes so here is the big news: Japanese and French people have lots in common 😀

Check out the video

As an MFL Teacher, I like that sort of feedbacks.

First, because I would like to take after more experienced teachers than me and be able to teach French language and culture as parts of an infinity of languages and cultures. All precious and valuable.

Second, because we all tend to fall into this trap: “she is from there so she must be this“, “he wears this, it means that“. But the truth is that is exactly what taints the relationship with each other and prevents us to be open to anyone who is different.

Third, because it takes time to grow and get mature. If we don’t accept listening to others, it means we also refuse to learn more about ourselves. And that’s how you stagnate.

As soon as people from different countries take part in something, it becomes greater
Emiko Shibata