First Names – What’s acceptable

Ah, first names. Most people don’t normally have any say in choosing their names. Your parents choose it for you. Some people do choose their own names but that is the exception to the rule. There are some Swiss restrictions to the name you can give your child. Although, if both parents are non-Swiss then you might get some leeway. Then again, you might have to prove that the name you chose is “normal” in your home country.

Of course there are rules. Switzerland wouldn’t be Switzerland without them!

Acceptable Names

First names must identify the sex of the child. A good identification would be an “a”-ending for a girl . But sometimes that, too is difficult. Andrea is a boy name in Italian but a girl name in German. An unpronounceable symbol like the musician Prince chose for himself  would not be acceptable in Switzerland.

The name should not have negative connotations, for example Adolf Weber would be acceptable but Adolf Hitler Weber would not. Names of places usually are not accepted either, no Bümpliz Weber, Wankdorf Weber or Matterhorn Weber. I believe a name isn’t allowed to be a nickname or a dialect form of a name either.

The name should not encourage mockery or ridicule. In the book “Schweizerbuch” by Rene Schweizer (1977, Robert Käppeli Verlagesgruppen) the author wrote relatively absurd letters to different offices to elicit responses. In 1974 he wrote to the Civil Registry office in Basel. That’s where the people in Basel have to register their child’s name. In the letter he said his wife was 6 months pregnant. He then asked if it would be okay to name his newborn Hanswurst-Globobrüll. Hans is German for John, Wurst means sausage, together they are used to call someone an idiot. Globobrüll sounds funny and doesn’t really mean anything. All in all, a pretty far out name. In the answer the officer asked what name they planned to punish the child with if it were a girl. He then added the mockery-name would with certainty not be registered.

It’s common sense, but a lot of non-Swiss celebrities have children with some non-conform names. Jason Lee named his child Pilot Inspektor. Gwyneth Paltrow has a child named Apple. Sylvester Stallone named his child Sage Moonblood. The list goes on and on. Swiss celebrities have children with normal Swiss names.

Spelling and Pronouncing Names

There is always different ways to spell the same name: Maya /Maja, Stefan /Stephan, Isabelle /Isabel.

I’ve noticed that people can get very possessive about their letters. Why not? After all, it is their name, it’s what identifies them. My husband’s mother, who was born in Boston, was named Lucy at birth. When her family moved back to Switzerland someone used the French spelling on some official paper.  From then on it was Lucie which bothered her, her whole life.

first namesI guess the same can be said for how a name is pronounced. The first time I saw the Swiss name “Beat” written, the Sonny and Cher song “And the beat goes on” came to mind. I thought who is the world would want to name their kid Beat? Unless you were maybe a drummer and were hoping for a successor. Although it is still a strange name to my ears, it’s a very Swiss name and not half as wild. It means “blissfull” and is pronounced in two syllables “bay-ought” .

I know I used to get touchy when someone pronounced my name “Alicia” other than the way I did. I would always correct them. The Swiss seldom get it right, they tend to pronounce it like the Spanish. To be sure, even English speaking people pronounce it many different ways. I’ve grown out of getting upset over that. Now, I very seldom, if ever correct anyone on the pronunciation. I’ll answer to almost anything nowadays, even “Hey you!”. I’m just glad when someone calls me.

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  1. Pingback: Non-Swiss Swiss Names - Cowbells and Chocolate

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