Category: Baby Name Bible
When we finally finished researching and writing our encyclopedic name book, the day came when we had to decide what to call it. (The working title of Big Baby Name Book just wasn’t going to cut it.)
This turned out to be almost as laborious a task as writing the book. Dozens and dozens of lists of possibilities were emailed back and forth. Our book editor and even our agent entered the fray, offering their own suggestions. (We actually chronicled this painful process in an article we wrote for Publishers Weekly magazine, called Naming the Name Book.) We finally settled on The Baby Name Bible because, well, we hoped people would make it their baby naming bible.
It never entered our minds that some people would take it literally as a book of biblical names. But on our earlier, smaller website, before nameberry was born–babynamebible.com– many visitors did come to search solely for Old and New Testament names. And of course they found them, but a lot more besides.
Biblical names have a long history in this country. They came to colonial America with the early Puritans, who scrutinized the Good Book for names of righteous figures, believing that such names could shape the character of their offspring, and often using extreme examples, like Zelophehad and Zerubbabel. Over the centuries and decades since then, there has been a steady stream of biblical names: individual Old Testament examples, in particular, have drifted in and out of fashion, for both boys and girls.
When we think of Scandinavian names, what usually comes to mind are the familiar and accessible ones that have been imported from Norway, Denmark and Sweden, like Eric and Ingrid and Lars and Dagmar. But Finnish names, while still Scandinavian, are a world unto themselves, loaded with double vowels (and sometimes consonants) and tricky accents and pronunciations. Yet though this nomenclature includes clunkers like Hongatar and Kiputytto, there are many others that have a unique and quirky charm all their own. I remember that when we were researching the foreign variations of names for The Baby Name Bible, I always kind of looked forward to seeing what the Finnish take would be on a classic–like Viljo for William, Maiju for Mary.
One reason for the sparse representation of Finnish names here is the small number of Finnish-Americans in the US. There are currently about 700,000 people of that ethnicity, which is only 0.2% of the population. Nor have many celebrities publicized Finnish names–there has never been a Finnish movie star equivalent of Ingrid Bergman, for example–the only Finnish names people might recognize are Esa-Pekka Salonen, the contemporary classical conductor, or perhaps father-and-son architects Eliel and Eero Saarinen.
Another element that sets these names apart comes from the fact that the Finnish language is very different from that of the other Scandinavian countries, with their Norse roots; Finnish has more in common with Hungarian, Estonian, Turkish and the languages spoken in the Asian part of Russia. But–for you vowel lovers– double vowels are its most distinctive feature. Pronunciation can be a little tricky, but here are some simple rules: A is pronounced as in arm, E as in egg, I as in it, O as in on, U as in pull, J=Y, and W=V.
So, while the current most popular names in Finland are quite international in flavor–Maria, Olivia, Sofia, Amanda, Matilda, and Julia are all in the Top 10–here are some more traiditional choices that would be usable but still highly distinctive here: