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New book: There are rules to naming children

Two Finnish linguists are going to tackle the problems associated with the way our names may be misspelled and mispronounced by publishing a book on first names early next year.

All of our first names may cause delight and confusion in equal measure, because many names have common associations which can differ from one language or culture to another. To help Finns concoct names that will suit the person being named, linguists Katleena Kortesuo and Liina-Maria Patjas will be publishing a book on first names in early 2015.

”I know people who have been given an official name like Michelle at birth, but who have been called something like Mimi for their whole lives for ease of speech,” Kortesuo says. “Nicknames and shortenings become part of our identities, and it’s interesting when the official name someone has been given is actually the ‘wrong’ one in comparison.”

“Not only that, but we associate names with famous people who have borne them,” says Patjas. “Many names can go right out the window with little more than a glance at a tabloid headline.”

Internationality favoured

”Many people want to give their child an international name,” says Patjas. ”If the premise is that the child will be born, raised and schooled in Finland, then the child should be given a name that takes that into consideration. At the moment staying in Finland is more likely than moving abroad.”

”I hope our book is of help to parents naming their babies,” Kortesuo says. “We want to help people avoid unfortunate homophones and accidental puns. There’s more to it than just finding a name that feels right, especially in Finnish, like how will it be conjugated.”

”First names can involve a deal of expectations, for instance if a family name is handed down. Traditions are great, but if a name sounds old-fashioned or seems complicated, it’s worth taking another look. The Finnish Naming Board can also deny a name.”

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