Transcript S2E8: First names

Here is the transcript of S2E8: First names. You can read more about this episode on the episode web page.

This transcript has been edited for readability.


LG = Luke Green
FR = Frauke Rüdebusch


  • In this transcript there are some phonetic symbols. You can look up the phonetics symbols for English words here and for German words here.
  • Where square brackets [ ] are used, I am referring to speech sounds (exception: where I add things like [laughs], then I just mean that the person laughs, or I’m adding a comment). Where pointed brackets < > are used, I am referring to spelling.
  • Where a consonant sound is transcribed on its own, it may have been pronounced with a schwa afterwards in the episode. It’s transcribed here without the schwa for simplicity and clarity.


LG: When you think of typically German first names, many people would probably jump to names like Friedrich, Hildegard, Heinz, Gisela, Hans, Helga. If you think of German people in well-known English-language films and TV series, we get names like Hans Gruber from Die Hard, Heinrich Strasser from Casablanca, and Dr Heinz Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb. We won’t go into how these are all antagonists, that’s for another day. The reality of German first names nowadays looks a little different. There are new trends, and different names go in and out of fashion, for different reasons. But while it might be acceptable, if a little unconventional, to give your child a name like Apple, Bear Blaze, or Sparrow James Midnight in countries such as the UK or the US, it’s not quite as easy in Germany or Austria since there are certain rules you need to adhere to. So today we’re going to dive into first names in German, which names are the most popular, what are some of the factors commonly involved in choosing a first name, and what restrictions exist which limit the names you can choose. We’ll be looking at why you can give a boy a girl’s name, but not the other way round, and why Kevin has become such an unpopular name in the German-speaking world. So let’s do it. Let’s crack on with the show.

[Theme music]

This is Yellow of the Egg. The podcast where we exchange pleasantries with the German language. I’m Luke Green and this is series 2 episode 8, “First names”.

[Theme music]

FR: The names in our Western culture consist of several parts. The very first part is the first name. Then there's the surname, the last name. And in some countries or languages, there's also a middle name. That doesn't exist in Germany, and I think in Austria either. But the very first name is, well, what is called Vorname, the ‘first name’, is actually what makes the individual, which makes, well, anyone a ‘someone’.

LG: If you’ve listened to series one, then you’ll recognise this voice. This is Frauke Rüdebusch from the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache. In addition to her other work for the GfdS, the main focus of her work is first names, in German, Vornamen.

FR: There are actually two main things we do. For this list of the most popular names that we publish every year, we collect the data from the registry offices in Germany. There are about, well, 700 registry offices who send us their names, the names that have been registered there over the year. And we collect them and have, well, at the end about 90% of all given names in one year. And that's the basis for our list of the most popular names.

LG: The GfdS publishes their list every year, usually around April or May. But they don’t just collect the data, they also use it for their work.

FR: So the main work we do for parents and also for registry offices, is that if there is a name which the registry office is not sure if it can be registered, because it might sound foreign, maybe the office doesn't know it, maybe the office has concerns about the meaning or if it would harm the child, the parents can call us. And these data that we have collected is the very first source and the biggest source that we can use to be sure if the name has already been given in Germany, maybe if it has been given more than once, if it has been given for boys or for girls or for both genders. And so, well, this source is very important to us, that we have a lot of books that we can look these names that we are asked about. We can look them up. Books from all over the world, from different cultures, different languages. So, what we actually do, what is our main work with first names is helping parents getting their wish name registered.

LG: There are all sorts of reasons why people might want to contact Frauke at the GfdS for help with choosing a first name for their child. Parents or registry offices may be seeking advice as to the meaning or origins behind a name, or generally how popular a name is at that time, or they might be unsure as to what names are even allowed. We’ll come back to that a little bit later. Before they go to people like Frauke, parents often have a name or a few names in mind already, and there are all sorts of motives regarding why parents choose the names they choose.

FR: Well actually, in 2014, that's the question we wanted to be answered. And we conducted a survey. We asked about 1000 people, 1000 people with children and without children. And the answer was that, well, the main or the most important criterion for a first name is the sound. The name has to sound – in the ears of those who give it – has to sound good, lovely.

LG: Which, of course, is subjective.

FR: Some people, or some parents, also think it's important that the first name, matches the surname, or even the name of the siblings. We have criteria that are not as important are like that the name comes from a certain language or culture, that it's a religious name, or that there has been a family member bearing the same name, or whatever.

LG: But the way the name sounds certainly seems to be the main factor. And there are certain speech sounds that are especially popular in names at the moment.

FR: Well, right now, actually – and that's a trend – we see that there are names very, very popular who have vowels like <e>, <i> and <a>. So it's light vowels. And consonants which are called sonorants – they are very soundful, let's say – these are <m>, <n> and <l>. They make a lot of sound. So, amongst the most popular girl's names, there are seven out of ten names who only consist of <e>, <i>, <a> and <m>, <l>, <n>. So just to give a few examples, it's Emilia, Emma, Mia, Lina, Mila, Ella, and Lea amongst the first ten most popular names in Germany right now, girls' names.

LG: There have been studies that have found that so-called front vowels, so vowels that are produced more towards the front of your mouth, like [i:] and [e:], evoke a lighter image, while back vowels like [u:] and [o:] sound heavier and fuller. This could play a role in why names with these front vowels are popular for baby girls. And as for the sonorants, so consonants like [m], [n] and [l], they are full of sound. They flow nicely, and don’t stop the word like a [p] or a [t] would. So we seem to get a lot of front, or light vowels, and a lot of sonorants among girls’ names at the moment. Does the same apply to boys’ names?

FR: Not as much, not as much. It used to be more like that. Like two or three years ago, there were many “L” names like Luis, Luca, Lukas, and so on, amongst the most popular names. But there are still names, I think all of them have either an L, M or an N, even beginning, some beginning with those sounds, like Noah, Leon, Luis, Mateo.

LG: You can also see a trend towards shorter names nowadays, names that are quicker and easier to pronounce.

FR: So, like, 30 years ago there were names, boys’ names especially, which had many consonants, which were very long, like Christian, Alexander, Sebastian, Michael. And now they are very short, and some names actually still amongst the top 10 end on a vowel, like Noah, also Mateo. So, most of them only have four, some even have only three letters like Ben, then there's Noah, Leon, Paul, Finn, Luis, very short names. So that is something that has changed over the years.

LG: It might be considered more modern to have a shorter name, although you can never really say for sure what the actual reasons are that certain names become popular, and names go in and out of fashion.

FR: So, if you look at the names which were popular 30 years ago, you actually can detect something like a generation trend. Well, these first name trends, they never change from year to year, even from decade to decade, but it's more like a generation change. So, a new generation wants new names, they want to differ from the old generations. They want to differ from the names that their parents have given to themselves and their children have to, well, have to be new, modern people with new, modern names. So, I think that might be one reason.

LG: This doesn’t mean old names go out of fashion forever.

FR: The old names never get old. Not as far as really old names are concerned because, well, actually, at the moment, no one wants to name their children like, well, let's say the parents’ generation or the grandparents’ generation, because these people still live, they are still alive. And if you call a girl, a young girl or a young boy Ursula or Horst, you would instantly think of an old person. That's not a young name. That's not a name for a young person. So you choose a name which is either new and modern, or you choose a name of a person which is not alive anymore. So maybe from your great-grandparents. These names are free, so you can choose them. And people do so. So, names which have like a revival – yeah, let's call it revival – are names which are really old which haven't been given much in like a hundred years. These are names like Paul, which is amongst the top 10, Emil, Theo, Jakob, Anton, or Oskar for boys, or Emma, also amongst the top 10, Ida, Frieda, Matilda, and there used to be Greta very much ahead of others, but now with Greta Thunberg, it has stumbled a little. So, yes. You can find old names in, well, like, in the top 20.

LG: Another potential factor that could influence the decision as to what name to give a child might be its international character. I personally know a few people who have chosen names for their children at least partially on the basis that they also exist as common names in other languages such as English, for instance Paul [German pronunciation], which corresponds to Paul [English pronunciation] and is written the same way. But this is just going by the people that I know. Is this actually a widespread factor?

FR: Names that are popular now, they do have something like, what you called, internationalism. You can use them internationally and they will be understood, but I think that's not the main criteria. Actually, we would have to find out about it by asking people if that is really something that they thought about when giving their children the names they gave them. But if you look at the names, there's hardly one name that you cannot find in English-speaking countries, like Emilia, Emily, Hannah, Emma, Sophia, Mia, Lina, Mila, Ella, Leah, Clara, and with the boys, Noah, Leon, Paul, Mateo maybe, it's more Italian, Ben, then Elias would rather be Elijah, I think, Finn, Felix, Henry, Luis – all these names which are popular in Germany might be popular in other speaking countries as well.

LG: In general in German, anglicisms are on the rise since English is seen as the world language, in addition to being considered cool, modern, young and progressive. You can see this in so many areas of life. You see it in youth slang, you see it in advertising, in music, technology, everywhere. As people lean more towards English in their German, you would think there might be a trend towards more English names in German-speaking countries, right?

FR: No. They used to be more popular, but right now, no. When I look at like the top hundred or something, yes, of course there are also English names or, like, Henry on rank nine. But I would not say that they are as popular as they used to be. Actually, they do have some kind of a stigma.

LG: In this context, there is a phenomenon that is known as Kevinism.

FR: In 2008, there was a study by a German professor amongst teachers. And, well, actually she asked, I think a little freer than the study now says, but the outcome of the study was that teachers say that pupils called Kevin, they disturb a lot, they are loud and not nice.

LG: They were described in German as Verhaltensauffällig, This stigma concerns not only the name Kevin, but also other English or French names such as Justin or Chantal. You might also hear Kevinism being referred to as Chantalism.

FR: What this study also displays is that in the nineties there were many parents calling their children with names from England or France.

LG: Not only in the upper classes, but in all classes, including the lower, working classes.

FR: You can actually see that with many names, or with many trends, they start in the upper classes.

LG: The upper classes tend to want to distinguish themselves from the lower classes, and so they look for new names.

FR: So maybe they find names like English-sounding names or French-sounding names for themselves. And then the other classes think, “oh, well, the upper classes take English names. So now if we call our children with English names, we can present ourselves more upper class than we actually are”. So the lower classes start to give their children these names as well. So Kevin, Justin, Chantal, Michelle, all these names were given by a broad, very broad, population. And so, there were many Kevins, many Justins, many Chantals in the classes of these teachers who were surveyed. And of course, there were pupils who showed behavioural problems. Maybe more than other pupils with names that are not that common or that were not that common. So, teachers started to say, “oh, that's a real Kevin, or that's a real Justin, or of course this girl is called Michelle, she has to have problems”. So, that's actually when these names started to, yeah, get stigmatised, and, well, yes, of course people still gave these names, but they are really unpopular at the moment.

LG: It goes without saying that it’s very problematic to make judgements about people based on their first names, and the terms Kevinism and Chantalism have come under criticism for being classist, too. But this stigma exists, and it puts a lot of people off giving their children these names. And who knows how this trend will develop from this point. Maybe English and French names will enjoy more popularity again one day. It’s likely that other names and kinds of names will suffer from similar stigmas as they become popular and gain certain connotations. But while a child might experience discrimination based on the name they are given, there is no rule saying you can’t call your child Kevin or Justin or Chantal, of course it’s still possible. But on the other hand, giving your child a name in Germany isn’t just a free-for-all. You can’t simply do whatever you want. Different countries have different rules regarding what names are permissible, and this is something parents can get advice on from the GfdS. So what rules are there in Germany concerning what first names are OK?

FR: There's no law in Germany which says which names can be given or which cannot be given, but there are certain rules or guidelines in the civil state's law which say, “you can give this name or you can't give this name”. And the criteria for that is, well, firstly, the wellbeing of the child. A name must not be ridiculous or offensive. The name must be, well, harmless in a way that the child will not suffer from it. So other pupils will not make fun of a child because of its name.

LG: This means that names containing profanities, for example, or names which could be humiliating for the child, like Dummkopf, would likely be strongly advised against or rejected in Germany.

FR: So that's the very first and the most important criteria for a name. Then there's the criteria of a name character, a name must have a name character. So it must be first name. It must be able to be identified as a first name, not as a name of a thing, of a city, of a landscape, of a river, whatever.

LG: This is another area where countries like the UK and the US seem to be a bit more relaxed. Look at some of the names given by celebrities to their children: Brooklyn, Apple, Gravity. Among Frank Zappa’s children are Moon Unit and Diva Muffin. You’re perhaps less likely to get approval for names such as Apfel or Schwerkraft in German because they don’t have this characteristic of being a first name.

FR: It's a little bit difficult because there's so many foreign names which we don't know, which are not, in its structure, not as known to us as our own names or names that have been here for years and years. But still these names usually can be looked up and be found in our books.

LG: And if a name is attested frequently enough, it is most likely to be deemed possible in Germany. Take, for instance, Brooklyn.

FR: …which is the name of, well, part of a city. But this is possible, also in Germany, because there are people having this name. So if there are enough people bearing a certain name, it can be given in Germany as well, even if these guidelines would have said “no” in the first place.

LG: In saying all this though, names can still be invented in Germany, as long as they still bear this character of sounding like a name. In Austria, the name has to exist first – you can’t come up with and register a brand-new name.

FR: In Germany, it's not that important that the name that the parents want to give their child has to be written somewhere or a person already bears this name. It can be completely made up, a fantasy name. Well, maybe sound like a name, sound like a person, and then that's okay. You can call your child Benimilian or Juliander, that's names that are written nowhere. There's no book with these names. There are no people calling these names. But when you put the Ben- from Benjamin and -ilian from Maximilian together, it's still a name.

LG: At the very least, Benimilian sounds like it would be a name as opposed to, say, an object.

FR: And in Austria, this name, this Benimilian, has to be, well, proved somewhere in a book or on the internet with people who already have these names. This name has to exist already. Only then you can call your child this name.

LG: This might sound super restrictive, but as long as the name is attested and exists anywhere in the world, it can be considered in Austria, as long as it fulfils the other criteria such as the wellbeing of the child. But back to Germany for now, and there is a factor that is considered by pretty much every prospective parent, and a factor which might potentially no longer be a criterion for the registry offices in the near future.

FR: There used to be a third criterion, which was that the name had to be gender-specific. So girls only get girls names and boys only get boys names.

LG: You couldn’t call a boy Julia, or a girl Paul. But what about names like Nikola or Sascha? They’re not gender-specific.

FR: Of course, there are many gender-neutral names. These names can be given to children, but it has to be given together with a second name, a second first name, which is gender-specific. So if a girl has a gender-neutral name, it has to have also a second, gender-specific name. This criterion is a little bit, well, on the brink to be abolished because, well, because. It's a long story actually. Because there's no real law, there are only individual verdicts about names. And in 2008 a court said that a gender-neutral name could be given as a sole name to a child. And that was actually the door-opener for gender-neutral names being given as sole names.

LG: More and more you will see gender-neutral names being given to children. And even if a name might be more typical for one gender…

FR: …as long as the name is gender-neutral, even if the balance is, well, for the other gender, it's possible to give your child the name.

LG: However…

FR: …what is not possible is to give your child a name which is only allowed for the other gender. So boys cannot be given girls names and girls cannot be given boys names.

LG: With one notable exception.

FR: The only exception is the name Maria, for religious reasons.

LG: Even though Maria isn’t generally considered gender-neutral, rather it’s a female name, it’s entirely possible to name your son Maria. With one caveat. You can give it to a boy…

FR: …but not as the first, first name and not as the only first name, but as a second or a third.

LG: So you could call your son Klaus Maria, but not Maria Klaus or just Maria. A male or gender-neutral name must come first. But as we’ve heard, these rules might be a thing of the past some day soon. So if boys can be called Maria for religious reasons, can girls be called Josef?

FR: No, that's not possible. He's not as important. [laughs]

LG: Poor Joseph. And what about other names with religious connotations? There are examples of names where they’re likely not to sit right, not just because of the gender aspect, but because they are so strongly connected to religion.

FR: Maybe something like a religious taboo is the name Jesus. You would not call your German boy Jesus. But if you are from Spain and have, well, your roots in Spain or Spanish culture, it's okay to call your child Jesus [Spanish pronunciation]. Even it's the same spelling. So there's no real ban of this name. But if a German couple would call their child Jesus, I think they would be looked upon very sceptically.

LG: There are plenty of other taboos that exist because of people in history. When a name becomes so tightly associated with one particular person, it’s almost impossible to lose that connotation. In some cases, this can lead to calls for certain names to be banned altogether.

FR: It's always been discussed if the name Adolf is a name that should be banned, because it is associated with the most evil person in the history of the world, but it's possible. It's still possible to give this name. And there are still people bearing this name. Because why wouldn't you be allowed to call your child after your great-great-grandfather or whatever?

LG: Although you would likely be questioned as to your motives for wanting to call your child Adolf. So while it might be possible, you’re likely to be advised against it.

FR: But there are certain names like Lucifer which are definitely not allowed because, firstly, they are not real names, not names of persons. Well, Lucifer as a fallen angel, as the devil, is, well, you can say, Michael is a name, Michael is an angel's name as well. Lucifer used to be an angel, but he is now the devil. So, you don't want to harm your children by giving names which are associated with evil people or evil beings. So, Lucifer is one example.

LG: There are other types of names that are generally not allowed, though, not just because of possible associations with people or things that are evil or harmful.

FR: It's not possible to give your children last names or surnames, like Eisenstein, Schneider, Schröder.

LG: As we mentioned before, a first name should sound like a first name.

FR: It's not possible to give your child names which are ridiculous, like Niki Lauda, from Niki Lauda, Popcorn, or Peanut. Then there are comic heroes like Batman, or even Pinocchio. While these names might be associated with not something harmful, but it's not really names. Then Shaggy, like the singer. Is he still known? Do you know Shaggy?

LG: Probably best known for his song “It Wasn’t Me”.

FR: Well, Shaggy has a meaning which is not very suitable for a child. Names like Olaf, you might know it's written O-L-A-F. Well, it's not possible to write this name Olaf like “Oh Love”, so O-H-L-O-V-E. It might sound the same, but it's not the same. So, this is not possible. Then titles like Großherzog, Kaiser, Graf or König in German are not possible

LG: So Grand Duke, Emperor, Count or King.

FR: But then, like, Prince is possible. So there are certain rules that are, well, more strict for German words or names and are less strict for foreign names. Even if they mean the same.

LG: But in spite of all these rules, there isn’t really a list of names that are 100% categorically not allowed in Germany.

FR: No, not like that. No, I cannot think of any. I think there's no such thing as a blacklist. Like Adolf. ‘This name used to be a name, but it's not allowed anymore’. No, that's not the case.

LG: But there are certain things you 100% categorically cannot do with names or include in names in Germany. For example…

FR: You cannot name your child with only one letter or a symbol or even a letter and a full stop behind it. So like John F. Kennedy, you cannot name your child “F dot”. You have to call your child with Fitzgerald, and I think this is not possible in Germany either.

LG: Because it’s not recognisable as a first name. And speaking of punctuation in general…

FR: You can have accents, but that's not actually punctuation. You cannot have dots or commas or even apostrophes. You cannot have them in your name.

LG: And what about capital letters?

FR: You cannot have a capital letter in your name apart from the first one. So if you want to name your child LaJulia, the J cannot be a capital letter.

LG: Phew. That’s a lot of rules to consider. But there are a lot of names that include letters or signs that aren’t German in origin. Are these allowed?

FR: In Germany you can use every special letter that exists all over the world. Like this thing below a <c> or on top of an <s> or whatever.

LG: These extra lines and dots and markings that go with existing letters are called diacritics.

FR: You can have diacritics in names, of course, especially in names from foreign languages. But you cannot have an apostrophe, even if it's possible in the US. You cannot have capital letters within the name. You cannot have only one letter. You cannot have a name ending with a full stop, no commas in names, and so on.

LG: That’s a lot of rules to consider. And these things could all be reasons why a name might be rejected or advised against. But what happens if you’re a parent and you try to register a name, and the name is denied? Can you do anything about it?

FR: Hmm. If the registry office sent these people to us to verify a name, and we say, “we cannot give you a certificate for these names because they are not, well, actually allowed in regard to the guidelines, there's no way that we write you something where it says, ‘yes, it's okay to give your child this name’”, then the registry office would most possibly not register this name because they in the first place said, “no, we cannot do it”. But the parents still have the possibility to go to court to get a verdict that these names have to be registered. They do have good chances. But, well, as I said, it's only individual verdicts for certain names. But you have to pay for it. You have to go through a whole lot of paperwork. Maybe you would have to get a lawyer, whatever. So, most people, I think, think about this very good before they actually go before court. Maybe they would change the name, or sometimes we can find a compromise so that the name has a different spelling, or whatever. And then it's okay.

LG: And what about if your parents give you a name, and you grow up and don’t like it, can you do anything about that?

FR: Yes and no. So jein in German. It is possible to change your name, but for all the paperwork and all that has to be done, it is nearly impossible. So, if you have a name that harms you and you can prove that it harms you, you have to get psychological certificates. Not only one, but more than one. And you have to have a serious reason why you want to change your name, then you can change your name. But if you only say, “oh, I don't like it anymore”, or “I like the other one better”, than you cannot do it, it's not possible. [laughs]

LG: An exception being if there is a formal mistake that you realise within the first few weeks of registering the name.

FR: Sometimes there are spelling mistakes in the name, then you can change it. So, Sophia would be Sopia, lacking the <h>, then you can change it, of course, that's no problem. But if after like a year you say, “oh, Sophia, oh, I would rather have called my girl Anna-Lena”, it's not possible.

LG: There is one way you can get around this, though. It’s not possible in Germany or Austria to have a middle name, at least it doesn’t have the status of a middle name, rather any middle names are considered first names, too. So you would have a first name, a second first name, a third first name, and so on, and these first names have the same status. And if you’re not happy with your first name, you can simply go by your second name instead.

FR: So, if you have more than one first name, it doesn't matter if your name is Susanne Ingrid, maybe your friends know you as Susanne, but your parents call you Ingrid. That is fine. And if you choose a unique name, maybe that's a good advice as well, if you choose a very unique name, maybe choose a second name as well. A more common name. So that your child, should it be unhappy with a unique name, can change easily to the second name and tell the friends and family, “please do not call me Mecki anymore, please call me Michael from now on” or so.

LG: Especially now that more unique names are technically possible, and even names that were once shortened versions of the full names are being registered as full names in their own right. In some cases, it might be good to give the child a second name so the child has options. For example, if you want to call your child Michi, the short form of Michael.

FR: Maybe this person only wants to be Michi amongst friends and family, but if they, well, in their position as a bank director, they don't want to be called Michi. So we suggest in these cases that, if the parents want to register Michi as a first name, that they choose a second first name so that Michi can say, “no, I'm not Michi Müller, I'm Rafael Müller” with his second name.

LG: This isn’t possible if two names are connected by a hyphen, which would mean that they count as a single name. You couldn’t drop a name that’s connected to another by a hyphen.

FR: You cannot say “I'm Leah” if your name is Leah-Marie. Well, with your friends and your family, of course. But if you have these two names, you would have to put them everywhere, like in every document, because otherwise it's not you, it's not your name if you leave out one of them. If you have two first names which are not connected by a hyphen, that's okay if you leave out one if you register for the fitness studio or whatever. Even at school in your report, if you have two names without the connection, you can leave out one. But if you have the hyphen in your name, it's part of your name, and both names are part of your first name, and you always have to give both. So, I think it used to be more common to give these double names, they are called in Germany. But, well, it's not that popular anymore, let's say it that way.

LG: Probably not a good idea to connect an unconventional name with another with a hyphen then, in case the child later doesn’t want to use it. Although I’m very intrigued to know some of the more unique names that have been registered over the years.

FR: I like that you say “unique” because, like, media stations, they always say “strange” and “crazy”, but they are unique. I can tell you about some that we actually verified, which is like the female form of Walter, Waltea. Then Flinnerke, I think it means ‘butterfly’ in the Netherlands. Eleison, like in Kyrie Eleison. Cartier, Pacino, Mecki. I think thirty years ago, there used to be little hedgehog called Mecki, a comic hedgehog. But I think today, no one knows about it anymore. Then Ferreus, Chaplin like Charlie, Jonael, which is not actually a name, but the structure is very namely. So Jona is a name, and there are many names ending on -el. Sky, and Soul, Waverly, Infinity, Unity. There are many English words with a meaning which can be given as a name.

LG: The GfdS receives a list of registered names from the registry offices every year, and all these names have appeared in these lists. There are some names on this list that catch one’s attention more than others.

FR: There are many names which we stumbled upon, which we think, “oh, would we have verified them? We don't know”. And I have some examples for you, like the names that you know from Shakespeare, for example: Ophelia, Titania, Cressida, Macbeth, Lear, Cordelia. Then from the series Game of Thrones: Daenerys, Khaleesi, which is actually no name, but it's perceived as a name. Asha, Theon, Rickon. Then from the Greek and the Roman mythology: Poseidon, Odyssey, Zeus, Achilles. From the German mythology, even: Odin, Wotan, Freya, Thor. From the Ancient Romans: Platon, Socrates, Aristoteles. From literature: Sherlock, Pebbles – yeah, even Pebbles – Siddhartha. From musicians and music: Rihanna or Rihanna [English pronunciation], Shantel, Björk, Sido, Shakira. Then even Merkel, Twain. From food, like Lemon, Tequila, Karnivale, Primavera. Then there are names which are associated with something specific with us, like Mandel, a Hebraic [Hebrew] name, Kleeblatt, Triumph, Wisdom, Sturmius, Iron, Century, Boss, Engel. Jobs like Sheriff or Mentor. Then names, which are actually no people's names, but rivers or cities, like Kurdistan, Amsterdam, Main or Main [English pronunciation], Bern, Bethlehem. Then plants like Lilie, Rose, Magnolia. Then you have these double names with the hyphen, which are, well, which you might know: Maria-Magdalena, Peter-Alexander, Johannes-Paul, Muhammad-Ali, Jamie-Oliver, James-Dean, Mona-Lisa, Franz-Ferdinand. And, well, then a lot more, which we stumbled across in these lists by the registry offices. Many of these names would have been okay with us as well, but some maybe not. [laughs]

LG: So there are actually many more options out there than just the traditional ones, and even more unique and unconventional names are being registered now. The pool of possible names is growing larger and larger all the time. So what if there are prospective parents listening and they’re struggling to come up with a name for their child? All this information is a lot to take in. Should I give my child a more unique name, or something more traditional? Something international? An English name? Or would that come with stigma? Should I choose a name with front vowels and sonorants? Should I give my child more than one name, so they can choose which one they like best? What names should I avoid? What should I do?

FR: Well, there are so many sources they can consult like the internet, name books, there are a lot of name books and a lot of very nice name books. Well, I think the most important thing is that they go with their gut. The feeling with this name should be right. It should, well, fit their imagination and not other people's imagination. If people do have a certain, well, picture of what the name should, well, begin with, maybe, a certain syllable or even a letter, that's easy to look up if they think of, “well, it has to be an ancient name with three syllables, it shouldn't be ending on an E, but on an A”, or whatever, that's a little more difficult. They can always call us for advice, but I would suggest that they look up on the internet or on webpages for first names or in books what their imagination might fit. Yeah. Well, that's a very specific question and a very specific thing actually, to look for a first name. I do not have children, but I can imagine that's very hard to pick a name and to pick a name which both you yourself and your partner likes. [laughs]

[Theme music]

LG: Thank you so much to Frauke Rüdebusch for returning again and joining me for this episode. You can find information about her and her work on first names, as well as contact information for her and the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache in the shownotes and the podcast website, Don’t forget the GfdS also has their own podcast about the German language, Wortcast, which is in German, and you can listen to it on Spotify. Links to this and to the GfdS Instagram in the shownotes.

And also don’t forget to follow me on Instagram too, @yotepodcast, that’s Y-O-T-E-Podcast. Facebook @yellowoftheegg, and email is I’d be so grateful for a nice review and a five-star rating. That would help me out a lot.

So with all that being said, thank you so much for listening. Playing us out this series are Euphoniques, this time with The Music Let You Know. Check them out on Spotify, links in the shownotes. Enjoy the song, and I’ll see you in the next episode. Machts es gut, servus aus Wien.

[Music: “The Music Let You Know” by Euphoniques]

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