EMILIA ALDRIN: First name choices in an urban environment – examples from Gothenburg

In: Namn i stadsmiljö. Handlingar från NORNA:s 42 symposium i Helsingfors den 10–12 november 2011. [Names in urban settings. Proceedings from NORNA’s 42nd symposium in Helsinki, November 10–12, 2011.] Edited by Leila Mattfolk, Maria Vidberg and Pamela Gustavsson. Skrifter 7 – Institutet för de inhemska språken, NORNA-rapporter 90. Helsingfors 2013.

This article analyses patterns of personal naming in an urban environment. It focuses on parents’ choices of first names in contemporary Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden. The discussion is based on three proposed characteristics of urban environments often cited in urban culture research – innovation, awareness of trends and cultural meetings – and explores how these are reflected in a set of name data. The article also examines to what extent social variation exists in parents’ participation in these patterns and considers the parents’ age, education, housing and linguistic background. The analysed data consist of first names chosen for 621 children, all born in Gothenburg during the year 2007, and their parents’ motivations for the name choice as described in a written survey. The analysis is primarily quantitative. To some extent the article also refers to spoken data that were collected through focus group interviews with another twenty-three new parents in Gothenburg in 2008 and 2009. Both sets of data have previously been used in my PhD thesis, Naming as a social act. Parents’ choices of first names and discussions of first names in Göteborg 2007–2009 (2011). The article shows that all three of the proposed characteristics of urban life are prominent in the name data. Innovative first names, trendy first names and multicultural first names are common throughout the data regardless of social factors, suggesting that these patterns may be typical of urban naming rather than typical of a certain social group. However, the patterns are realized in somewhat different ways depending on social factors, which shows that the same name characteristics can be handled in different ways in order to create different social stances. Since the study does not include non-urban data for comparison we cannot conclude that the examined characteristics are specific for naming in urban environment, but it is hoped that the results can serve as a starting point for further research.