A glimpse at Sweden’s most popular baby names

January 25, 2016 § Leave a comment

Disney-Frozen-Elsa1

Even though I haven’t been writing, I’ve never turned off the Google alerts for this blog’s research. I love when it sends me overseas, to a world of names I’ve never thought much about from my corner of the planet. Sometimes one link turns into several links, until I can’t believe how many open tabs I’ve got reading about names. Today it sent me to Sweden, where Statistics Sweden has recently released their list of top baby names from children born last year, and, knowing little about Swedish names, of course I needed to know more.

Naturally, my instinct was to compare the list to English-language choices, and I found that even modern Swedes are opting for Anglicized variations of many Scandinavian names. The top three boys names are William (equivalent Ville is 71st), Lucas (2014’s number one), and Liam, fastest risers are Kian (which might actually be the result of Middle Eastern immigration, as Muhammad also makes the list) and Henry (not Henrik). The girls top ten features Ella, Lilly, and Olivia, which are just as popular in the English-speaking world. Elias, which Michael Buble and wife Luisana just picked for their second son, born January 22, is number seven on the boy’s list, and trendy Axel knocked traditional Alexander from the Top 10 (seeing them paired together, I really like the nickname potential of Axel to Alexander, and I’m not sure why it didn’t dawn on me before now!) Still, that’s not to say the list is dominated by non-Swedish names. On the contrary, while these names stood out as being commonplace here at home, many others stood out because they’re not.

Names like Sága, Ebba, Hedvig, Lo, My, and Tindra, or Algot, Folke, Sixten, Hjalmar, Melker, and Ture.

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About A Name: Bowie

January 24, 2016 § 2 Comments

(c) Masayoshi Sukita, 1977/David Bowie Archive: David Bowie from the Heroes album cover shoot, among my favourite incarnations of Bowie's sound.

(c) Masayoshi Sukita, 1977/David Bowie Archive: David Bowie from the Heroes album cover shoot, among my favourite incarnations of Bowie’s sound.

The death of iconic musical journeyman David Bowie earlier this month caught most of the world by surprise, and the long line of tributes for the artist who helped bring down the Berlin Wall, who changed the face (and sound!) of popular music, the conversation around gender and sexual identity, and even the digital accessibility of music, inspired me to wake up from a three-year slumber, so imposed by a long list of incredibly non-interesting reasons (that I can’t guarantee are entirely in the past). So, now that we’ve established that I don’t know if I’m back back, let’s get back into things with a look at a unique baby name that trended just under the radar for years before Bowie’s death, and will probably trend higher in tribute to a man whose mere existence inspired so many. I’ve had this post in the draft folder for years (and yes, I know Abby at Appellation Mountain has already done this name better than I could possibly – twice, and I digress), but it’s well past time to write it now.

The name Bowie is said to mean “yellow/fair-haired” in Gaelic. It’s believed to derive from the Old Irish buidhe, meaning “yellow”, and from this derived the surname Bowie. Bowie himself (born David Robert Jones) was inspired by 19th Century American frontiersman Jim Bowie and his popular ‘Bowie knife’ when he changed his stage name in 1965. Then known as Davy Jones, he was frustrated by confusion with The Monkees frontman, and wanted something more unique. In 1976, he called his use of Bowie as a show name “the medium for a conglomerate of statements and illusions.”

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About A (Not-So-Bad) Name: Ryker

January 9, 2013 § 7 Comments

Star Trek: TNG's Commander Riker is one of few modern references to trendy, modern boys name Ryker.

Star Trek: TNG‘s Commander Riker is one of few pop culture references to trendy, modern boys name Ryker.

Following my last post regarding name negativity, I’ve decided to take things a step further by going out of my way to highlight the positives in the names singled out in the aforementioned Deadspin article as evidence that American baby names are “getting even worse.”

The Not-So-Bad series of posts will no doubt feature names you’ve probably balked at before, but let’s keep one thing in mind, here. These aren’t hypothetical names, names from books, or lists of interesting choices – these are names that people out there actually wear. Real people. With feelings.

The first one I’ll cover is a name that’s actually been gaining massively in popularity, and isn’t just a unique selection by one adventurous parent. Ryker is, as far as I’m concerned, a true name of the future with a long Low Country heritage. It’s already nearly inside the US Top 300, after beginning it’s climb from 1000 in just 2003. The name Ryan is commonplace and has been for decades. Tucker, Parker, etc. had their biggest moments in the late-90s and early 2000s, and from those trends modern usage of Ryker was born.

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The Politics of Naming Rights

January 5, 2013 § 6 Comments

(c) AP - Blaer Bjarkardottir, 15, is trying to change name laws in her native Iceland.

(c) AP – Blaer Bjarkardottir, 15, (pictured with her mother, Bjork) is trying to change name laws in her native Iceland, and is willing to take her case to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

Forgive me, but it’s about to get a little opinionated in here. Much has been discussed online over baby name laws the past few days, and I can’t help but weigh in, of course.

Lou at Mer de Noms led me to this fascinating article about a 15-year-old Icelandic girl named Blaer Bjarkardottir. But, since Blaer isn’t on the list of 1,853 accepted names for girls in her native country, all her government forms list her official name as ‘Sturka’ – which means, simply, “girl.” Her mother, Bjork Eidsdottir, picked Icelandic Blaer, which means “light breeze,” inspired by a female Blaer she knew in Iceland in the early 1970s – back when the name had been reportedly acceptable. The priest who baptised Blaer even thought the name acceptable enough, but had to admit his mistake after the fact, negating the legality of the name. Now, Blaer and her mother are suing the Icelandic state for the right to use a name that has a masculine article and was denied by the panel of judges who approve or reject every baby name, or adult name change, in the country. Germany, Denmark, New Zealand, China, and other countries have similar processes, a response to parents who have selected names ranging from Anus to Devil and Number 9 Bus Stop to the @ symbol.

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About A Name: Wynn

January 2, 2013 § 6 Comments

(c) Randy Risling/Toronto Star, January 1, 2013: Casey Laforet and girlfriend Jane Maggs with their son Wynn, whose timeliness, and baby name, are especially notable.

(c) Randy Risling/Toronto Star, Jan. 1, 2013: Casey Laforet and girlfriend Jane Maggs with their son Wynn, whose punctuality, and baby name, are especially notable.

There always has to be a ‘first baby,’ born in every city and celebrated for their timeliness every New Year’s Day. This year, the first baby born in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, was a bit of a celebrity bub (well, I certainly enjoy his father’s music, it’s my thing). Not only was he the first baby born in Toronto, but his timing was so impeccable that he arrived at midnight, to the second.

Casey Laforet is one-third of Ontario-based alt-country indie rock band Elliott Brood (pronounced broad), and his girlfriend, screenwriter Jane Maggs, delivered their son, Wynn Christopher Laforet, at the exact moment the great big ball dropped in New York’s Times Square (yes, even Canadians know it’s a new year when the ball drops. We even watch it on time delay on the west coast). Laforet had to cancel his band’s annual New Year’s Eve gig to get Maggs to the hospital.

The couple chose the name from a book of “Rock N Roll Baby Names” that they received as a gift from Maggs’ sister. And while Wynn isn’t the most obvious rock n’ roll name I’ve ever heard, it certainly fits for the musically inclined. Wynn Stewart, born Winford (his mother, Cleo’s, maiden name), was a 20th Century country music singer-songwriter of the ’50s and ’60s, an early influence on country music legends like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, and alt-country stars from Dwight Yoakum to k.d. lang. Raised primarily in California, Stewart initially balked at the growth of rock n’ roll and his fellow country artists earning crossover success, though by the late-1950s he had stopped fighting the future and released a series of rockabilly singles. But despite making music until his death in 1985, he never achieved mainstream success.

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My Favourite Names of 2012

January 1, 2013 § 10 Comments

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I may have failed myself with blogging this year (so many real life changes!) but it’s one of my resolutions for 2013 to be better. Much better. I owe it to myself, because I truly enjoy maintaining this blog. Of little credit to me, my blog’s popularity grew this year with many thanks to the lovely ladies at Nameberry for hosting my political names guest post in the spring, with great appreciation to Abby at Appellation Mountain for highlighting my post on Malala this fall, which proved to be my biggest post of the year, and with ongoing affection for Anna at Waltzing More Than Matilda, whose site continues to be my most consistent referral source, links wise, and she is far and away my top commenter. And of course, I’m grateful to each and every one of you who reads, comments, and shares the posts you love. You guys inspire me, full on, and your support is not taken for granted.

To close out 2011, I compiled my favourite names from overall trends of the year, and though I haven’t blogged as much as I should have, I’ve paid attention in 2012. A few of these names earned posts of their own this year, but many didn’t, so bear with me. And you know the drill – please don’t leave without sharing your own favourites from the past twelve months.

Happy New Year to you and yours, and let’s all look forward to a big year of names in 2013. What traditional names will be bestowed upon the royal baby? Will baby Kimye get a K name? Will Biblical boy names make a comeback or fall even further out of favour? So many questions, so bring it on!

This year’s list of names looks nothing like last year’s (well it might, if you’ve read enough of this blog to catch on to the name biases I try not to have):

Koa. I love to travel, but this year I only made it to one place – Hawaii. So it seems fitting that the first name on my 2012 year end list is a Hawaiian name-on-fire. Simple enough to feel familiar, yet exotic enough to stand out, nature name Koa, which sounds like Biblically “unfashionable” Noah, kept trending for boys in 2012. Australian marathon swimmer Ky Hurst welcomed a son named Koa in November.

Aoife. This Irish name, pronounced EE-fah, was bestowed upon the daughter of Irish-born pop singer Una Healy of The Saturdays, and her English rugby star boyfriend Ben Foden in March. It means “beautiful,” and was suggested to the couple by Healy’s father. (Adorable Aoife’s middle name is the Latin name, Belle, which means her parents gave her a name that means “beautiful beauty.”)

I find Irish Gaelic names to be too challenging to use, personally, despite some Irish heritage in my family tree, but this one stood out this year in a crowded pack of selections more easily read by my North American sensibilities. And Healy wasn’t the only celeb to honour her Irish heritage with her baby name – How I Met Your Mother star Alyson Hannigan welcomed her second daughter in May, and named her Keeva Jane (an Americanized spelling of Caoimhe). Alternately pronounced Kev-ah, it means “gentle, beautiful beloved,” the feminine form of Kevin.

(more after the jump)

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How Many Names is Too Many?

December 2, 2012 § 4 Comments

Uma Thurman's daughter is earning the distinction as 2012's 'worst celeb baby name.'

Uma Thurman’s nearly six-month-old daughter is earning the distinction as 2012’s ‘worst celeb baby name.’

And is there such a thing?

Perhaps the biggest celebrity trend in baby naming this year has been the predisposition NOT to announce baby’s name at all, but over at Fox News, Uma Thurman’s baby daughter’s mouthful of a name is far and away leading a poll for 2012’s Dumbest Celebrity Baby Name. (For the record, I voted for Moroccan Scott Cannon based solely on his inclusion in a 2012 year-end list, when he was born in April of 2011.) Thurman’s daughter, born July 15th of this year to the actress and her Swiss financier boyfriend Arpad Busson – father to Elle MacPherson’s sons Arpad (Flynn) and Aurelius (Cy) – Uma’s third child was named Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence Thurman-Busson, called Luna.

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