I’ve always had a thing about names, quite possibly because mine caused me a great deal of trouble growing up. It became habit to spell it out- D-E-M-S-T-E-A-D-E-R – and still, I once received a letter addressed to Christine Dogsdinner. No joke. In Sweden, however, my first name suffers more, with the Swedes exchanging the Ch for a K but after the dogsdinner debacle it’s an oversight I can forgive.
Standard surnames in Sweden are generally not that exciting and natives can deem themselves exotic if theirs doesn’t include a sson (as in Larsson) a berg, a qvist or a ström. For parents that want to combine surnames, Swedish bureaucracy can prove something of a minefield but it’s Christian names that cause most controversy here. Thanks to the Swedish naming law, they even draw international attention.
After a child is born, those nice people at the Swedish Tax Authority (Skatteverket) give parents three months to register his or her name. And judgement is passed on whether it is suitable or not. My son is called Jack. No problem said the tax man. It works in both Sweden and England although I sometimes wince when it’s pronounced akin to a furry bovine creature found wandering around the Himalayas. I will always insist on the accentuated “J” sound.
The likes of Frank Zappa and Gwyneth Paltrow should be thankful they don’t live here. Moon Unit and Apple would have certainly caused a riot at Skatteverket HQ. The most celebrated and talked-about cases in Sweden involve the names Metallica, Superman, Q and Google but my personal favourite is the child named Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (pronounced Albin) – an act of protest by his parents over the red tape.
The Swedish Tax Authority presides over the national population database which presumably this gives them this right to rule. But who exactly gives the nod or a nej to a baby girl being named Elvis? I’m currently trying to track down the manager of monikers or find out whether a group of property tax part-timers debate the latest batch of proposals during their coffee break. Maybe there’s a mass email sent around the building and the majority vote wins? If anyone already knows, pray tell!