Non-Swiss Swiss Names

I talked about Swiss names before (First Names). I’ve been here for ages but some of them still sound strange to my ears. Names are something very personal, you call it your own and identify with it. Unless, of course you are the guy named “Sue” in the Johnny Cash song, then you might have problems. Luckily I know no one in that situation.

Quite often in Switzerland you hear English names. Usually one or both parents are from an English speaking country. Or, as you will see, not always.

Alicia

My personal favorite. Once when I was talking to a Swiss I told her my real name. I usually go by my nickname “Lisa” so I was explaining how my real name is “Alicia”. She got really big eyes and her mouth dropped open. I thought, “Well, it’s not a name you hear a lot. Still a reaction like that is strange!” Then she said “My daughter’s name is Alicia”. Time for my wide eyed reaction. Both she and her husband are Swiss with no connections that I know of to an English speaking country. Maybe Spanish?

She told me that when she was pregnant they wanted a name that had a nice ring to it. So they went to Hollywood (figuratively speaking) in search of something spectacular. They found it in the form of an actress named Alicia Silverstone. No other connection there.

Kevin

Yes, the “Kevin Alone” films left their mark over here, too. I have some very good friends who named their son that. Kevin is a lovely person and after talking to him for a couple of seconds you forget completely that he has an English name. His mom is one of the few people to whom I actually write e-mails in German. She says she never learnt English (but she does speak French and Italian).

I love the way they pronounce his name. It’s got this Swiss accent to it like when Swiss talk about “jogging”. You understand it completely but it sounds just a bit different.

Jeff

I met Jeff in an office. He had a nametag on which included his first and last name. Why he had both names on his tag, I’ll never know. You usually address people in that setting using their last name only. Still, it gave us something to talk about. I had never met a “Jeff” outside of an English speaking country and certainly not in Switzerland. I imagined that one of his parents was American.

As it turns out, I was completely wrong. Both of his parents are Swiss and are professors at the university and all of their children have English names. Jeff (not Jeffery) was chosen for its simplicity and again, to stand out in a crowd. I believe his last name was Müller [Miller] or something to that effect. I asked him how he pronounced it and it sounded good to me. He said that most Swiss get it wrong, though.

Dad

This isn’t a given name but a chosen one. This Swiss couple were on vacation in America. They heard kids calling their fathers that and thought the name had a wonderful ring to it. They have two children and that is what the father wanted them to call him. Why not? That’s what I call my Dad, too.

We were invited to their home for dinner once. Their children came in, said goodnight and then went to bed. After they left we asked what he had just been called. It wasn’t anything like “Vater” [father] or “Aetti” [Dad].

To our unsuspecting ears, we heard Dad and Daddy pronounced “Dead” and “Dead-y”. What??!! Once we realized what they had said, we said something like “Oh, we weren’t expecting English!”. After all, if that’s what he wants to be called, who are we to say otherwise?

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