Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Swedish Baby Names

I shy away from showing portraits of our children but, when writing this story,  I could only think of this favorite photo. It was taken on the very Swedish holiday called Midsummer. Our daughter was  6 months old at the time.  Would you believe my friend, Leslie, mother of twins who were the same age as our daughter, whipped this little traditional Swedish Midsummer dress up, for our "Swede" in her spare time for us!  The photo and the outfit are personal treasures.
Naming babies in Sweden
I've been thinking about naming babies and the culture behind them when I recently saw a photo of our Swedish friend's 16 year old daughter, Butterfly. As far as I know, Butterfly has never answered to or used her officially registered name, Emily. She was given the nickname Butterfly from birth and by the time her parents registered her official name, she was walking and talking and would only respond to Butterfly.

Although this may sound a little extreme, this is not an exclusive story here. In Sweden, people generally wait days, weeks and even months before officially registering their new baby's name; leaving enough time for an endearing nickname to stick.

My perception and experience, in the US, with baby names has been the opposite.  I have sent presents to prenatal baby showers where the baby has already been named. I would love to hear your experience or thoughts on naming babies. What was your process? Is there a naming tradition in your culture? Had you decided on a name before you delivered or did you wait to see your baby's face? Do you live in a country where it is also common practice to wait in naming?

On that note, I'd like to share the Top 10 Swedish Baby Names of 2012:

Girls:
1) Alice
2) Maja
3) Elsa
4) Julia
5) Linnéa
6) Ella
7) Ebba
8) Molly
9) Wilma
10) Emma

Boys
1) William
2) Lucas
3) Oscar
4) Hugo
5) Elias
6) Oliver
7) Liam
8) Alexander
9) Viktor
10) Emil

The girl names: Sigrid Victoria, Hilma and Rut have all entered the top 100 in 2012; boy names: Tage, Edward, Johannes and Julian have all entered the top 100 in 2012, too.

In addition to these, there are several classic Swedish names that I've heard through the years, either popular or stand out.  Girls: Mathilda, Elsa, Siri, Lovisa, and Saga. Boys: Ossian,  August, Axel, Gunnar and Kaj.

Did you name your children after family members or follow a family tradition? I'd love to hear from you.



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SOMETHING YOU MIGHT LIKE:
NESTING BABY SHOWER
PRINCESS ESTELLE
WILLOW BABY by Elsa Beskow (Videung)


45 comments:

  1. Oh thanks for the name inspiration for my new baby! In Scotland we have to register the name within just 3 weeks (in England 6 weeks) - I had no idea there were places you could wait longer. I love all these Swedish names, some of them are quite unusual here - but it seems I picked the girls' top of the pops for my firstborn!

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    1. Thank you so much for a fast reply on such a happy topic. Best of luck with the names during such a special period in life. I'm sure that several Swedish names share top 10 lists around the world, don't you? I've read that a bill was passed in the 80's where the Swedish government has the right to veto your name choice and that this might partially explain why parents take so much time choosing a name. It's definitely cultural and I find it endlessly fascinating. I truly appreciate that you took the time to share your story.

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  2. I think American parents decide names earlier for a few reasons: 1. It's more common to find out the gender in advance and I think that makes it easier to get into naming. 2. Americans are not supersticious like Swedes are about getting ready for the baby before birth (hence baby shower traditions etc). 3. Registering your baby's name after you leave the hospital in the US is extremely cumbersome (at least I know it is in Georgia, where our son was born) so that gives an incentive to have your name ready to go.
    We didn't know what we were having so we went into the delivery with 2 boys names and 2 girls names on our shortlist. The day or two days after birth, we chose "Alec" for our little one. I think we'll do the same this time around even though this baby will be born in Sweden.

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    1. Mini Piccolini, thank you for sharing and good luck with the wonderful task of choosing a baby name! Such an exciting period for your entire family.

      Although, I had a list of favorites for years and years, when it came time to officially name our children (all three were born here) I did appreciate the notion that I could at least take a breath, wait for our newborns eyes to open for the first time, and then, name them. We, too, had a short list of 3 boy names and 3 girls names and felt strongly as soon as we met our newborn.

      Yes, I agree with you completely about the prenatal superstition in Sweden (and in Europe) and that I can't imagine anyone naming a baby before the baby arrived. It simply isn't done.

      Although all of our children were born here, I never had a baby shower due to this and this felt only natural. (Amongst my American friends, we loosely recognized a "Mommy" day but, it took until this year and one dozen babies to throw an all out shower.)

      Alec is a great name. Wishing you a wonderful time with your second. Enjoy.

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  3. Very interesting as an American grandmother of ten. As for my good American practical side, my suggestion would be to know what your favorite names are and stick to them before the baby is born. This comes from experience. After our first child was born, being overwhelmed with emotion and hormones, I started thinking that perhaps we should change the chosen name my husband and I loved and go with the name of the lady (never met before) I met in the hospital. We are SO GLAD we did not give in to my emotions and hormones. Love the name we chose. Very interesting about traditions in other countries.

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    1. Thank you for sharing this fantastic story and genuine advise!

      It is true that the care takers that are there for the delivery are transformed into transcending angels after you've given birth.

      (In our case, my American family could still be stumbling over the pronunciations of our Swedish nurse "Åsa, Ingalil or doctor Hjalmar" if we had done so!)

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  4. In Uruguay, where I'm writing you from, the law says you must register your child within 5 days of birth in urban areas and 10 in rural towns. However, if you're having your baby in a hospital or in a (heavily discouraged) home birth with a midwife, the assisting medical staff must fill a form with your name and your baby's so... you must name your baby as soon as s/he pops out.

    This obviously doesn't apply to miscarriages and still births, although the few people I know who experienced that tragedy do have a name for that child.

    Given that we have universal medical care and there are three sonograms included in the pregnancy care (meaning they cost next to nothing), almost everyone knows the sex of the baby and have chosen a name, and it's told freely and gifts with the name of the baby (usually a cute door plate or something handmade and mostly cheap) are given and received.

    I personally find that tacky and maybe I'm superstitious, but I was very reluctant in telling other people the name I had chosen for my baby. Next time (if there is a next time), I think I won't say it ;-)

    As for registry, there are two more instances of registry just because we're latin and we love bureaucracy: the civic registry, within 5 days (it's usually the father who goes and does the paperwork), and the identity card within 3 months (most babies are either asleep or crying in their first card).

    A last comment, Emma (also spelled Ema) and Julia have been very popular names lately. When I was a kid and would attend parties, the only people sharing my name were elderly ladies; these days they are toddlers.

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    1. Julia, thank you so much for sharing this. I am just thrilled to hear from Uruguay and am fascinated with what you've shared. I remain humbled by the entire event of bringing a baby into the world and I suppose a little superstitious, too (and definitely not a slave to practicality; which for some they like to know ahead of time) The trend to announce the sex and now, the name, has grown in the past 20 years in the US.

      I did not know that Uruguay had universal health care. I'd like to know more, like are your taxes hight? The high taxes that we pay in Sweden, are returned when it comes to medical fees. Having a baby basically costs the same as a routine visit to the doctor. The only extra expense is an extra, minimal, fee for lodging/meals in the hospital. Making the entire delivery and visit under $50 (US)

      Emotionally, I had to adjust to the idea that our babies wouldn't be delivered by the midwife or doctor that I met the entire pregnancy. After living vicariously through my sister and sister-in-law's American deliveries and witnessing the connections they've had with their personal doctors, I had to mentally adjust myself to the idea that the on-call doctor would be the one who would deliver the baby and there was no other option here.

      Lastly, Julia seems to have seen a revival in so many countries. It is a name that congers such beauty... associating it with elderly ladies in Uruguay makes me envision an enchanted group of elders ...so hip.

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    2. So many questions...!!! I don't really know where to start, but I'll try.

      For some reason researches try to explain, though it's hard to, former Spanish colony Uruguay started to separate itself from the Catholic Church in the late 1800, with an education reform in 1874 making public school education compulsory, non religious and universal, state marriage overriding religious marriage, and the state taking control of hospitals and cemeteries from the Catholic Church (therefore their registries of births and deaths).

      Forward thinking president José Batlle y Ordóñez passed many laws of social content (maximum day work of 8 hours with compulsory breaks, legal divorce) before 1910, and the country's industry and economy highly benefited from belic conflicts of the first half of the century. So by 1950 we called ourselves proudly "the Switzerland of America" (so pompous!!!), with a level of literacy higher than 90% and abundant football glory.

      You know, for some reason glory in sports has an immense echo in society... not very sure why, but it's important.

      I've heard many times that Sweden inspired its government on Batlle's ideas, but I've never heard a Swedish mentioning it, so it might be delusions of grandeur.

      Afterwards it all rolled downhill (quality of education, economy, industry, even sports glory), with one very painful militar dictatorship (1973-1985). After that we tried to raise our heads up and it's worked out somehow, we're still here in spite of almost bankrupt in 2002.

      In 2005 the leftist party was elected for the first time, and the thing of having a practising oncologist for a president is that he (may) take health very seriously. He started banning tobacco almost everywhere (and Philip Morris is suing us for it), and brought this massive health system reform where everybody pays a fixed percentage of their salary for coverage. Exceptionally we may have to pay an extra tax (of a just a couple of dollars), and sometimes copay some studies.

      Most of our hospitals are no fuss, and you always are expected to bring your own pajamas and towels. The food is never remarkable, but it's never too bad or scarce. Sometimes you also have to bring your own sheets and covers for warmth, even a foldable seat for your companion or a portable heater or fan, but they don't charge you for the food you receive or the hospitality. You stay for as long as your doctor says you should, period.

      Our taxes are EXTREMELY high, but I think... I want to believe that we see the benefits collectively. Everything could be better, I know, but I hope it last long.

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    3. Julia, this comment slipped by. The longer I live abroad, the infinitely more fascinated I am with how cultures have arrived to where they are today. Although the world is growing smaller, cultural differences remain and I find beauty in the differences! Thank you for the brief history.

      Growing up in the US, there were natural connections and open channels of news from South and Central America. In Sweden, the news is very different, as well as the immigrant tides. There's a large population from Chili from the 70's and 80's; then, it's my perception that more recently, Colombia and Peru. I've heard golden things about Uruguay and appreciate that you're sharing this. I've met only one person for Uruguay and she was a wonderful representative.

      Swedish hospital stays are similar: you stay as long as you need. The interiors are sparse but we don't have to bring bedding. Infinitely interesting. Thank you.

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  5. Such a cute post! I love Oliver. I it's getting popular in the States as well as Liam.

    I named my daughter Macey after a store. Henry for my great grandpa, and Kimball for a past leader in our church. Not too conventional but fun. What are your kids names?

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  6. We waited until our children were born to name them. We considered Ella for our daughter but it seemed too common in the US so we went with Kinsey (no family/historical reason. we just made it up!). Its fun to see my name on your list, because its not very common in the US

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    1. Kinsey - how pretty! Lucky you. Julia is really a beautiful name and all of our children have a friend with that name: 2 Swedish Julias, 1 French Juliette, and 1 Italian Guila!

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  7. I love your post. My baby girl is 6 months old now, and her favorite toy is Sophie the giraffe. She has not quite grown into her Swedish costume. I consulted the Swedish registry when naming this daughter. I found Ella and it so suits her!

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to share. Ella is such a beautiful name. If the costume doesn't fit, I remember that I was charmed by the Midsummer scarf and the traditional bonnet from Dalarna... something to share in the future.

      I love it that you noticed Sophie. This photo is a time capsule of so many precious things; including ever present "Sophie." Favorite toy.

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  8. Although I am from the US, I think I resonate more with the Swedish way of baby naming. To me, the name is such a special thing that you need to meet the sweet bundle of joy before truly deciding. I have had friends that have had a name for their baby already in their second trimester. While I think that is fine, I also think there is something to be said about meeting your baby and then confirming that is in fact the name you want. While you can always change it, it seems a little weird to have all of your family and friends thinking you will name your baby Sarah and then once the baby is born you meet them and decide you'll change it to Anne. It's fine to do but, at least for myself, I begin to grow a connection to the name and it's hard when people start throwing out names before the little one is born and you've met them to confirm it's the right name for them.

    However, saying that, I have yet to have a baby myself yet, so I could totally have different feelings once I have one of my own!

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    1. Thank you for commenting. Yes, as one of the above commenter noted: she was glad that she had two names that they had agreed on before the baby arrived --- there is a euphoric feeling surrounding a birth -- and she almost named their baby after a nurse they met in the delivery room. I love that story and word of wisdom.

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  9. I'm probably in the minority, but I don't understand why naming a baby has become so complicated. It was rather easy for us and we knew what we were going to name both of our children by the time I was in my 3rd trimester. My husband and I actually disagreed about our sons name. We came home from the ultrasound, armed with the information we were having a boy hashed it out for 20 minutes and had our sons name- Theodore. We didn't take naming either of our children lightly, but for us it came rather easily. I guess we were lucky that it was so simple. Because of my experience, I'm always perplexed on why it takes couple so long to decide on a name. My husband and I laugh when we see new moms and dads with a baby naming book at the hospital. But then again, I've never understood needing to see your baby before you decide on a name. I think kids grow into their names. It does explain why all the girls names Sarah, Jessica, Natalie, etc.. look alike. It's kind of funny, but in a way parents are essentially unconsciously naming their kids after other people they have seen or met with the same name or what they think girls should look like with specific names.

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    1. It's so nice to hear your perspective. Just a thought as I read these comments: I wonder if choosing a baby name is maybe the only part of childbirth one can have control over?

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  10. I don't have children yet, but I will admit that my husband and I already have names picked out. In the US it's super common to have names before the children are born. I think it's because it's more about the parents than the children. :)

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    1. Interesting thought. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment!

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  11. I love reading about naming children. It is so important to choose the correct name for your baby. Emma is also one of the top names in the US and it was my grandmother's name! Many new mom's are making up names by combining their favorites or changing the spelling so as it is original.I'll bet Christian hit the top ten in boys names soon!!!

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    1. Christian is a very popular name with people born in the 60's and 70's in Sweden. I think the name Emma is timeless and is also a name that can be pronounced in most countries. I've noticed many Swedish parents say that they want a name for their children that is international. It says a lot about Sweden. Thank you for coming by.

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  12. Thanks for this post - I love hearing what people's favorite baby names are. I loved the Swedish 'Elsa' for girls. I just wrote a post last week on popular Russian baby names (my husband and I are living in Moscow). My favorite names - Zoya/Sonia for girls and Gleb/Constantine for boys aren't popular right now...

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    1. Thank you for this interesting comment. I am someone who really loves names for the sake of names. Is the name Tatiana common? I have a friend who's named their daughter that. It feels so beautiful Russian to me and I wonder if that's reality?

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  13. I'm so excited by this list! My oldest is Maya, my son is Elias and my niece (who's name I suggested and her parents love) is Alice. Now my sister is pregnant with her 2nd (a boy) and I just sent her a link to this list. I think she'll love it too.
    I had the joy of naming my oldest and knew her name before I was even sure she was a girl. My son was named by his Ethiopian birth parents, since he came home at 5 years old I couldn't dare change it as it was already his identity and fits him perfectly. My youngest now has her Ethiopian name as a middle name, it was just too different and would never have been pronounced correctly. Her first name, Hannah, is one I have liked for years.

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    1. Such a beautiful story and what thoughtful decisions how's made. I really appreciate that you share this!

      (In my immediate family, we're a three culture family and honored this by giving the children 3 names (or two middle names) --- one from each culture.

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  14. Ooh so my name is the top baby girl name in Sweden, how interesting! My official name is actually Alicia, but the only time my parents have called me Alicia directly was in a home video when I was 4 weeks old! My dad was an English teacher and tends to anglisize (if that word exists?) everyone's name - I didn't escape and was always Alice at home and with anyone close. Problem is in all official documentation (including school paperwork, employment contracts, etc I am Alicia, so at work people call me Alicia when I'm used to responding to Alice, it is much more me. They won't change it, they insist with Alicia (pronounced in an English way instead of the Spanish way it was intended!).

    Wow, sorry for the long comment, I find names very interesting and the Swedish language is so beautiful that I find Swedish names very pretty! I like Siri (shame on you iPhone 4S), Freya (or Freja) and Sophia. And I don;t even have kids yet!

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    1. I think names and naming is such interesting conversation. Maybe you've heard the Swedish pronunciation for "Alice?" -- it's "a LEES."

      Siri was one of my personal top Swedish names, too! So funny that you point out the iPhone connection. Siri isn't working perfectly in Sweden so I think the effects are not fulling measurable here, yet.

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  15. I find names fascinating! I wanted to pick a name ahead of time, I liked being able to call the baby in my tummy by a name, it seemed so much more personal. We had a list of names we liked and were going to 'try out' several of them before she was born, but we always ended up using the same name. It just felt right. My husband didn't feel comfortable committing to a name until she was born though so we waited to meet her. We chose the name Danika Grace. Grace is my great grandmother's name and my sister's middle name and Danika means Morning Star and was fitting as she was born just after midnight when the sky was full of stars.

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    1. Thank you for sharing. What a beautiful meaning of a name!

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  16. Aloha!

    Great post and lovely names, too!

    Here in Hawai'i, by and large, names aren't simply chosen from a book or a "Top 10" list. Rather, as culture and tradition dictates, we believe that choosing a child's name isn't a chance for the parents to express how cool and trendy they are. Rather, the name you give your child is a lifelong message to your child, and the honor of choosing such an important message should be revered as such.

    Essentially, giving a child a name is the second lifelong gift that you give them, after life itself. In many "minority" cultures, particularly Polynesian, a child is given a name that may explain his/her heritage, the circumstances of their birth, an omen, and other powerful messages. A child's name should be a source of pride, strength, and understanding of where they came from and who they are capable of becoming.

    Because naming a child is so important, taking one's time to do so is entirely appropriate and, in fact, warranted. I balk at parents who flippantly choose names from magazines just because they think "it sounds great/cool/unique/normal". To me, it can nearly be likened to just as swiftly choosing your child's school, their friends and influences, their path in life.

    For our first daughter, we had several names "picked out". But we didn't dare "name her" until we saw her and tried each name out, asking her which she preferred. We even prayed about it, asking our Heavenly Father who blessed us with His child, what name He wanted us to give her. Luckily, we were able to name her by the time we left the hospital.

    For our second daughter, we thought we had a wonderful list of possible names. However, when she was born and we looked at her, none of the names felt right. It took us nearly a month to figure out exactly what she needed to be named. Interestingly enough, the different experiences in naming our children are indicative of their personalities: our first child is very easy-going and our second always keeps us guessing. : )

    I think many Americans (and yes, as a Hawai'i citizen, I'm an American) are a convenience-based society. While that may suffice in the long run, I think convenience, by definition, can often preclude understanding and connecting to the importance and deeper meaning of things. It's foolish to trade depth for convenience.

    It's refreshing to hear that other cultures and parents are as careful and considerate about naming their children as they should be. After all, every parent should want the best for their child. And as we all know, sometimes that may take awhile.

    Mahalo!

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to share. I love to hear from someone from an area that feel so different than Sweden but shares similarities.

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  17. We had our names picked out before we even impress the gender. With my first it would be Lexy for a girl and Kason for a boy. It was a girl and we named her Lexy. With our second it would either be Kason for a boy or Kyla for a girl. He was a boy and named him Kason. I think their names suit them perfect. Though I did second guess myself with my son because I thought he kind of looked like a Milo but now that he is bigger Kason suits him better than Milo would have.

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    1. It sounds like you've put a lot of thought into this. Thank you for sharing.

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  18. How adorable your baby girl is..love the Swedish costume. My name is "Petrine", its an old ancestral name. Have seen a few other's with the same name but spelled as "Petrina". Donny Osmond has an ancestor with the name of "Petrine"...I found it when I was employed at OneGreatFamily.com.

    I named my youngest daughter, "Haley", based on the meaning derived from the Old Norse word "haela" meaning "hero".

    My youngest son was named after Swedish ancestors as well, some ancestor's names spelled as "Eric" and others spelled "Erik"...but they all died either in infancy or at young ages, so I combined the "c" and "k" for good luck and for "Erick"...since then, I have seen several other Ericks.

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  19. My daughter, Melissa Elin, just named her new baby girl, Elin Rose, after my Swedish grandmother's first name. I am thrilled about having a granddaughter and her name. We now have six Elins in our family, all middle names except for the original Elin and the newest Elin. All of our Gustafson family rejoices in her name.
    Gwenda Elin

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  20. My Grandfather immigrated from Sweden to the US when he was 7 (1923). His name was Axel Volmen Anderson.

    I have 2 Daughters Olivia Grace is 9 and Alaina Kristine is 7. I would love to visit my relatives in Sweden someday.

    Happy New Year!

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  21. My Grandfather came to the US from Sweden in 1923 (He was 7). His name was Axel Volmen Anderson. My children were born in the US, Olivia Grace is 9 and Alaina Kristine is 6.
    I would love to visit my relatives in Sweden someday :)

    Take care,
    Katy

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    1. This is so interesting. I've met quite a few people here in Sweden who've had family move in that time frame -- and talk about it attentively. It's lovely that you've appreciated this with names linked to Sweden. I hope you have the chance to visit those relatives!

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    2. My son was named after the movie actor, Sean Connery, and his middle name was from a rodeo star my husband met in a bar while I was pregnant...So it was
      Sean Emile.....Sean hated his middle name, and told me his classmates would make fun of it, and think he was a girl, calling him "Emily". His first grade teacher did, as did his classmates...Until they found out how smart he was, and how he would do their school work for them to stop the teasing....He changed his middle name to Michael when he was 9, and he is still very smart.

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  22. We have daughters named Brita Christina (34) and Elisabet Anne (23). Both were named after our Swedish ancestors.

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  23. Top 10 boys and girls names list is nice. I heard some of names are popular in English speaking countries.

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    1. Oh, I'm so sorry I missed this! Yes, I think the cross over is so interesting.

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Thank you!