changing name [107/365]

Just came across an article online, about a proposal to the Swedish government to make it easier to legally change your name. That made me stop and read as I was thinking; “how can they make it any easier, it’s already easy?”

telefonkatalog-minIt’s not unusual for people to change their family name there. In a way, I can understand that. It’s a small country, with only 9 million citizens … that’s about the same as the province of Quebec here. Since some time in the 1800s they’ve used the patronymic system which has resulted in that 241,685  people bear the proud name Johansson. That was also my name before we married. The top ten most common names there are all -son names:

  • Andersson


  • Johansson


  • Karlsson


  • Nilsson


  • Eriksson


  • Larsson


  • Olsson


  • Persson


  • Svensson


  • Gustafsson


So … when your name is Maria Johansson you don’t have much of a chance to stand out 🙂 My paternal grandfather’s name was Solomonson, but for some reason my father got Johansson. I don’t know why and he’s not around so I can ask him.

Changing your family name is easy. They have a booklet with suggestions, and you can go online and make up a new name with the help of prefixes and suffixes — it’s like making up a screen name or something like that. If you’ve done genealogy, you could also take a name, three generations back in your ancestry. Like I said, this thing with -son names only started as late as end of 1800, and they had much cooler name before that. Take ‘Hernodius’ as an example … that would imply that it’s a person from Härnösand, my hometown … with a Latinization.

This would cost you approximately $200 +the costs involved in getting a new passport, drivers licence et cetera.

Changing your first name only costs a few bucks. According to this proposal it will now be possible to take also the common names like Johansson. Before, you had to prove that you had a close connection if you wanted to take an existing name. If I would have wanted to change my name to Hoeckert, which was my maternal great grandmother’s name, it would have been fairly easy … that was three generations. But to go farther back, you’d have to consult with living bearers of the name in question and they’d have to approve.

In this article, they also say that it will get easier to change your first name. I don’ t know how, they didn’t elaborate on that. However, it reminded me of a waiter in a restaurant where I lived for a while … his name was Ahmed Karlsson. He had adopted his wife’s family name because he wanted to assimilate into the Swedish society. I don’t know how that worked out for him, with a name like that. Perhaps it will get easier now.



36 Replies to “changing name [107/365]”

  1. It’s a while since I dealt with such things, but in the UK it was very easy. One way was that you executed a deed saying you changed your name. That was it. Or you could simply start using a different name and then after a while make a written declaration that you had been using that name and intended to keep doing so. You didn’t have to use a Government agency and if you knew how to draft the document you could do it yourself. Easy, eh?

      1. Yes, you just sent a certified copy of the document and that was all that you needed. It may still be the case – I haven’t been involved in that stuff for a while.

            1. … and Iceland! They have the strongest restrictions on first names. Don’t know about Germany, but Sweden has loosened up theirs a bit, over the years.

  2. Hm, that’s a very interesting post! I think here you can only change your last name if it’s offensive or the like – some names just happen to sound as something offensive as the language develops – and women can legally drop the Slavic -ová suffix in their last names, provided that they convince the institutions that they will live, work or otherwise be in contact with foreign countries. The idea is to simplify the women’s last name in international environment, I guess. As to your post, I think it’s a lovely sentiment that Ahmed Karlsson took his wife’s last name. The effort and the thought count for me.

    1. Interesting! Could you give an example of a common name with -ová removed?

      Yeah, he made an effort there, Ahmed, but it sounded funny to us back then. Now they could adopt any of those names, but I doubt we’ll see any Abdullah Johansson or Hassan Nilsson.

      1. Well, for example, a common Slavic last name is Novák. That’s the default male version. The woman is Nováková, but she could choose to be Novák too. Not sure how much better it is, but whatever. It’s only relevant with some names, because there are names like Novotný, whose female counterpart is Novotná. There is no -ová and should the woman choose to call herself Novotný, it would be as confusing as ridiculous. A controversial point is that we add the -ová ending to foreign names – we have Angela Merkelová or Sharon Stoneová. There are differences of opinion as to whether this is the right way to do it or whether we should leave foreign names alone. Foreign names don’t lend themselves to Czech inflection very well…

        1. Names ending with -skaya, are they Russian names?

          All those -son names I wrote about, lately it has become quite common to replace the -son with -dotter (Olofsdotter for example). But then, theoretically, a little boy could come to bear the family name Olofsdotter, which would sound ridiculous.

          Interesting, about the Angela Merkelová and all that 🙂

          1. Yes, -skaya are Russian or Ukrainian. I quite like the -son in last names. I thought it unambiguously points to last names, but some names ending in -son could be used as first names, you said? I’d prefer names to make more sense, at least so that one could identify which is the first name and which is the family name. An extra bonus would be to know if the name bearer is male or female…

            1. No, not first names … not in Sweden. On CNN they have Anderson Cooper, though 🙂 So it all sounds as if we’re all sons of someone, regardless of gender. Many people have started to change to -dotter, but often those names become long and awkward, I think. And if the person with a surname, ending in -dotter, gets a son later in life … hmmm! LOL

              So would I have been Johanssonová, had I lived in the Czech Rep. ? 🙂

              1. Yes, poor dear, you’d be Johanssonová. Talk about long and awkward names… Gender specific words, like son and dotter, are always a mess. Someone should invent some universally applicable synonyms for those words – and I don’t mean the current state of things where masculine is considered the default neutral form.

                  1. Rest assured that we Czechs take any name and distort it by adding -ová to it, no matter what it ends in. Let’s say that someone’s last name is Dana, so we make it into Daneová… Don’t ask me why “a” changes into “e”, it’s a native speaker’s intuition and no logic in it really.

                    1. In Finnish, names change too, but that’s not depending on gender … it’s depending on … prepositions. They add -issa, -illa and a lot of other suffixes, all depending on where you are. Stockholmissa, would perhaps be IN Stockholm, or it could be on its way to Stockholm … not sure, I don’t speak Finnish. Johanssonilla could be something inside Johansson ROFL … like the liver.

                    2. Hahahaha 😀 I’m laughing so hard that I’m choking. I’m probably immature but the idea of a language structure which means that something is inside someone amuses me. I never heard of that before.

                    3. Yeah, I find it very funny too! 😀

                      Then it also depends on whether I’m on my way to Stockholm or if I’m already there. Finnish is not for me … 🙂

  3. I don’t see the need to put endings on names, as in Slavic names. What woman wants to be reduced to an egg -producing creature (ova)? But in the case of the son ending in the Scandinavian names, it can be an honour to carry on the tradition of the family name and to say you belong to the family of Johann’s son.

    1. I have no idea … is this something you know … -ová meaning egg in the Czech language?! I do know about the Latin root, but …

      Well, we Johanssons are a great family then. Back in the 1800s they could change right and left — no
      order whatsoever. Like I said, my paternal grandfather was Solomonson.

        1. Interesting reading.

          Another interesting titbit; had we gotten married while we lived in Quebec, I could not have taken my husband’s name.

          1. A friend of mine who has been living in Que. found it very strange that women here in BC took their husband’s name. It made it harder to find old high school friends.

  4. Fascinating post Rebekah, In Australia a lot of people changed their name from the European version to a more Anglicized one…..especially after WW2…..Poldarovski became Poldar and things like that, even foods changed their name, German sausage became devon for example…..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s