Thursday, April 21, 2005

Lars. Anders. Johan. Three common Swedish names that the husband mixes up frequently, referring to Lars as Anders, or Anders as Johan. How is this even possible? I just don't understand and no one has been able to adequately explain it to me.

"They're just the same kind of name," the husband responds when I ask how he can mix them up. It's like mixing up the names Tom, Greg and Steve, I tell him. It makes no sense.

"But what about when people don't look like what their name actually is?" A., the TV producer has also thrown back at me when I've asked her about this apparently common Swedish phenomenon of mixing up names that sound nothing alike phonetically.

Apparently, an Åke looks one way, and a Marcus looks another way; an Åsa looks nothing like an Anja. In fact, some Swedish babies will go without names for weeks (even months, I've heard) until the parents decide on a name that really fits the baby, rather like a tailor-made suit. Although there don't seem to be very many babies whose personalities scream "Ragnhild" or "Hjördis" these days.

I've decided that this somehow has to do with the fact that the pool of Swedish given names seems to be pretty small, so people have cultural associations with many names.

Or maybe Swedes are just funny about names.

(It was Monica who got me going by writing about this, from the Swedish perspective of course.)

The second Swedish word for the day is ansikte. It means face.

- by Francis S.

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