Belgian native and guest blogger Sarah B. unscrambles the pieces of the complicated jigsaw puzzle that is the diverse naming structure of her native land by analyzing its Most Popular list of 2010.
Belgium is a small country with a mere 10 million inhabitants. Yet it sits right in the heart of Western Europe (the capital, Brussels, is often called the ‘capital of Europe’), and so is subject to more varied cultural influences than perhaps any other European country. One result of this is that Belgium has no less than three official languages: Dutch, spoken in the northern part of the country called Flanders (this variety is called Flemish– the differences between Dutch and Flemish are comparable to the differences between British and American English); French, spoken in the southern part of the country, called Wallonia; and German, spoken in a small part of Wallonia bordering Germany.
These three languages cause important differences when it comes to naming our babies, and this is why separate statistics are kept for the three parts of the country. Some names are popular in the whole of Belgium, but these names will usually be popular in all of Europe and even beyond (Emma is an example).
Being Flemish, I will limit myself to the names popular in Flanders. Here is the Flemish Top 10 for 2010 so far–( names given in Flanders only, regardless of their origin):
These Top 10 names popular in Flanders can be further divided into five different categories: International, Dutch, French, Flemish and a smaller group of English names, clearly showing Flanders’ central position in Europe, and the varied cultural influences involved.