English baby names in Finland

Commenter Marr asked on a previous post how Sterling's name was pronounced at päiväkoti and it got me thinking about my kids' names in the context of Finland. So here you go.

Finland is one of those countries that has laws about what you can name your child. If you are Finnish and your child is born in Finland, you can't give a girl a boy's name (or vice versa), or name two siblings the same thing, or name a kid a surname, or give him/her a name "foreign to tradition in Finland." These rules didn't apply to us, but we ended up following them in two out of our three children's names.

Miriam (the name) fits in effortlessly in Finland. It could probably be even more Finnish if we spelled it Mirjami or Mirjam, but Miriam works. In Finnish, it's pronounced "MEER-yum."

Magdalena (the name) works here, though I suspect it skews slightly Swedish. That's fine, since lots of people here have Swedish names. Our Magdalena often goes by Magda and that works, too. In Finnish, it's pronounced "MAHG-duh," but the g sound is only very slightly voiced, making it almost like "MAHK-duh."

Now. Sterling. That is not a name here (surprise). But it is a word in its own right (like sterling silver, or pounds sterling) that follows predictable rules of English orthography, so it's easy to pick up on even for non-native speakers of English. In Finnish, it's pronounced "STAIR-leeng." It, uh, sounds better when you hear a Finn say it than it looks spelled out like that!

I like that when I'm out in public with the girls, I can say their names and nobody immediately knows that we're foreigners. Obviously, this isn't true with Sterling. He has an identifiably American (English) name. Oh well. When I was in elementary school in the US, there were always a few kids with foreign names in my class, like Nitin Tekchandani. I guess Sterling Palmer is like the Nitin Tekchandani of Finland.

Since moving to Finland I've sometimes asked myself if I wish Jeremy and I had tried harder to find a more international name for Sterling, like we made sure to do for our daughters. But then I remember that we DID try hard. Our very hardest. And we chose a name that we were happy with, and are still happy with. When we first moved here, we briefly considered finding a Finnish name that was close to Sterling and letting him use it as a nickname for others' convenience, but ultimately decided against it. I suppose when he gets older, he could find a nickname if he is sensitive about it!

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Second Vappu

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