Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Name Loves: Scandinavian Old Men?

Blogger has been giving me grief, so I apologise for the current craziness that seems to be going on here. Anyway, it's no secret that I love Scandinavian names, which is rather strange since I have no connections whatsoever to that part of the world. Still, any name that sounds or looks to be Scandinavian somehow automatically ends up on my favourites list. Many aren't all that unfamiliar - there is Astrid, Britta and Sigfrid - but some don't get that much attention. I've picked some names at random that I liked and tried (it's unclear if I succeeded) to use statistics from Sweden and Norway, with some from Iceland thrown in, to see how well received they are in the countries mentioned.

Ansgar - A variant of Oscar and the Finnish Anskar, it means 'God's spear'. The name is made up of the elements ans 'god' and gar 'spear'. It was the name of 9th century missionary saint who became known as 'The Apostle of the North'. The name does not appear in the top 100 for either of the countries mentioned above: There are currently 309 men with the given name Ansgar in Sweden and 366 in Norway.

Birger - Derived from the Old Norse name Birgir, it is likely to mean 'to help, to save, to protect'. It was the name of a king of Sweden who ruled from 1290 to 1318. Birger seems to be much more in use than Ansgar, but not all that popular. It does not make an appearance in the Swedish name statistics for 2011, meaning that fewer than 10 boys were given the name. In Norway, it appears Birger has had its day, with its popularity peaking around the early 1900s. But Iceland does show that it is still being used, with Birgir ranking at #26 in 2011.

Edvin - The much edgier form of Edwin keeps the nice meaning of 'rich, blessed friend'. While Edwin ranks at #209 in the US, Edvin is a much more popular choice in Sweden where in 2011 it came in at #23. In Norway it is also seeing some use, with 39 boys being given the name last year.

Erling - Means 'descendant of the jarl', an Old Norse term for a chieftain or nobleman. Some bearers of the name include Erling Skakk, a 12th century Norwegian jarl, and Erling Persson, founder of H&M. Again, not a top 100 name in Sweden or Norway. In fact, in Norway it seems to be losing what little appeal it may once have had - only 24 boys were given the name in 2011. Erling may be a good compromise between stuffy Earl and very modern sounding Sterling. 

Halvar - The Swedish form of the Norwegian Halvard from the Old Norse name Hallvarðr, which means 'rock guardian'. I seem to have a real knack for picking names that Swedish and Norwegian people aren't big fans of. Halvar hasn't been used in Sweden more than 10 times since 1998 and it doesn't appear in the Norwegian statistics either. I can take small comfort in the fact that Halvard was given to 11 boys in 2011 (Hallvard to 10) in Norway.

Sindri - Taken from Norse mythology, it comes from the Old Norse sindr meaning 'spark' or 'sparkling'. This was the name of a dwarf who, in Norse Legend, made magical objects for the gods. In Sweden they don't care much for it. However, in 2010 the alternative Sindre ranked at #83 in Norway, but it did drop 28 places since 2009 (according to Behind the Name). But, in Iceland, Sindri does rank within the top 100. In fact, he placed at #56 in 2011. To top it all off, the Icelandic singer Bjork has a son named Sindri.

So, there you go. With the exception of Edvin, and maybe Sindri, I have managed to pick out all the names no one likes (hurrah!). I think the statistics show that perhaps the names listed above could be considered 'old man' names? Not that it really matters. One man's trash is another man's treasure, and I still think the names are delightful.

Image: 'The Giants Seize Freya' an illustration by Arthur Rackham.


Anonymous said...

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Zeffy said...

You could always try Nameberry. They have a very active forum!

Ich und die Namen said...

Edvin is very popular among young Bosnian parents and there are also many Bosnian immigrants, who live in Sweden and Norway.

Zeffy said...

How interesting. Thank you for the insight :)

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