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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Danish Baby Name Dilemma

Kathy writes:
I'm due in late November with a boy, who will be our second son (no more children planned after this). I am American and my husband is Danish -- born and raised for the first 30 years of his life in and around Copenhagen, moved here and ended up staying. So our main naming issue is ensuring that names work in both languages. Our son is Christian Kai (Christian after his paternal great-grandfather and Kai is another Danish name -- Kaj would have been the Danish spelling but we didn't want him to spend his life explaining the pronunciation in non-Scandinavian countries).

We are having a hard time this time around for some reason. We had a major scare at 16 weeks when we were told the baby had a greater than 1 in 3 of having a serious chromosomal abnormality, and when amnio thankfully revealed he is perfectly healthy, I decided that his middle name should be the Scandinavian variant of Matthew -- Mathias. Husband agrees and likes that name. (It is pronounced "Ma-TEE-as" in Danish.)

As for the first name, DH likes Anders, which is the Scandinavian variant of Andrew. I like it but don't LOVE it. My main concern is that it is just slightly unusual enough in the U.S. that he'll always have to spell/explain it, unlike his brother Christian. I feel like Mathias wouldn't be the greatest first name either, for the same reason -- it's just far enough out there to cause confusion.

Other names that I prefer but that DH doesn't like (primarily because they are "too common" or "too boring" according to him, keeping in mind that his frame of reference is Denmark):
Carsten (fair enough -- probably too close to Christian)

Names he likes but I have axed:

I also really like the name Owen and did try to convince him to stray from the Danish list a bit but he won't budge. When we look at lists of Danish names, many of them are just so....Viking-like. And that's not what we're looking for.

So -- just looking for reactions to the name Anders Mathias, as that seems to be our front-runner and I am trying to convince myself that it will work, despite not being my own first choice. Do American readers think it's a little affected or weird? And what if we went with Mathias as the first name -- would that work at all or just doom the boy to a lifetime of confused looks and misspellings?

Thanks! (And Tak, from my husband)

I think Anders Mathias is perfect. Anders has a slightly exotic international sound, without being so exotic that people will have a hard time with it: it's pronounced as it's spelled, and it feels familiar because of the names Andrew and Anderson. Christian and Anders are a great sibling set, and I think Mathias is a perfect middle name. Hans Christian Anderson came to mind after a few minutes, but it's a positive association, and not a very strong one when it's Anders not Anderson.

I think Mathias would also work well as a first name. I've encountered it before on an actual child; to me it seems like a freshened version of Matthew to go along with Elias and Phineas. The spellings Mathias and Matthias combined had a popularity in the U.S. of #463 in 2010; Anders is at #936, but Anderson at #312 makes it feel a little more popular. I don't think either name would have enough spelling/pronunciation/confusion issues to need to cross it off the list. There would likely be the mild hassle of "one T or two" or the like---but most names have something like this. (My name isn't so much Kristen as it is "Kristen: K, r, i, s, t, E, n.")

Name update! Kathy writes:
Anders Mathias arrived on November 20th -- the name fits him well and we've received a lot of positive feedback from people upon hearing it. Thanks again to you and your readers for helping with this big decision!


Katie said...

I think Anders is great! I knew a sibling set named Christian and Anders when I was a kid, and no one thought it was particularly odd. I am in Minnesota, so the viking reference might not be as out there, but really - it's easily pronouncable and easy to spell.

HereWeGoAJen said...

I really like Anders too. And the spelling issue is less of an issue than it used to be. With all the parents now using different spellings, I find that I am now "Jennifer, J-E-N-N-I-F-E-R". Everyone wants everything spelled since so many people are spelling differently.

Jessica said...

I like both Anders and Mathias and don't find either to be weird in the US.

Marjorie said...

I don't think Anders is difficult to spell or pronounce

Suzanne said...

My mother very much wanted to use Anders for my brother (we're Swedish), but she was afraid it was a little too weird so she went with Andrew instead. She said she's always wished they just used Anders.

Anonymous said...

Both are great names. I would not hesitate to use either. Do you like Matt for nickname or Andy better as people may automatically use those nicknames? But I think you could certainly get people to use the full name for either. Anders is easy, just say it's like Anderson without the on. But Ma-tee-us is easy to pronounce in English too. From your list I'm drawn to Henrik. Not boring at all!!! Such a fresh version of Henry and very approachable in English. It's a like combo of Henry and Erik.

Susan said...

I think Anders Mathias is a terrific name and not at all too unusual for an American. As for the spelling issue, one of my daughters is named the oh-so-common Sarah and she'll still have to spell it for people for the rest of her life.

Carmen said...

I lived in Denmark for 4 years, and a friend of mine named Anders moved back to Canada with us to work with my husband. Hanging around with him has taught me that no one here can pronounce his name properly, but for good reason. People pronounce it as it is spelled, rather than the Danish way which is essentially with a silent 'd'. Your husband wouldn't mind that? It would drive me batty and I'd feel the need to correct people constantly!

Marcie said...

What about Harald or Frederik or Nils?

Leah said...

I adore Scandinavian names. ADORE. Anders Mathias is great. I'd have a really hard time not going with Frederik. But I don't think Americans will have any harder time with a scandinavian name than they already do with every other name. (Jonas. JonaS. not Jonah. Not Joe. Seriously, people?)

Frazzled Mom said...

I met a baby Anders and I had no difficulty with the name at all. Since the name is so close to Andrew, I find it perfectly usable and easy to bear for a US resident. Before I read Carmen's comment, I would have assumed you were pronouncing the "d" however. If pronunciation is a concern of yours, I would pronounce it with the "d" as in Anderson without the on.

Exotic names are also currently fashionable. For that reason, I feel a lot of names on your Danish list will soon become more mainstream, which I am under the impression, is a plus for you. Don't get me wrong: I don't feel most of these names will ever become as mainstream as Andrew or Matthew, but you may be surprised that among your children's generation, these names won't seem the least bit out-there. I base this impression on past posts to Swistle, with many parents-to-be including names like Hugo and Soren on their lists. I say all of this to give you some comfort with naming your kid Anders, but make of that what you will...

While I don't feel you need to look beyond Anders, I also ask you to reconsider Marcus from your husband's list. Marcus seems very comfortable to me. But if Marcus seems too exotic for your local area, you can always call him Marc. I met 4 year old Marc at my daughter's old daycare, and I was surprised at how refreshing (especially with the c spelling), yet wearable Marc is on a little boy today. The only potential downside is the double M initials (Marcus Mathias), but that wouldn't be a deal breaker to me.

The Mrs. said...

Let me say right up front here that Anders is a FANTASTIC name! Wow!

BUT if you are looking for perhaps a few other ideas, do you like:


Stellan (reminds me of Dylan)
















All the best to you and your growing family! Curious to hear what you and your husband decide!

StephLove said...

I do like Anders quite a bit and I think the whole name flows well and goes nicely with Christian, too.

But if you need some more ideas how about Gregers or Peder? I like Henrik and Soren, too, if he changes his mind. And Owen for that matter although it sounds like he is pretty set on the Danish names.

beyond said...

Oh, I like Anders very much! Use it! You say "that it is just slightly unusual enough", I think it's just slightly usual enough for him not to have many pronunciation and spelling problems in the US and elsewhere. Christian and Anders is a nice pairing.
From the lists, I also really like Andreas, Henrik and Soren.

Beth said...

Fantastic names - both. I don't think they are at all weird or affected.

Use them!

Anonymous said...

Anders is great. My Danish host family had a child named Sebastian and I love that name, too.

Kathy said...

Thank you all for the feedback and additional ideas! As far as pronunciation goes -- we'd use the American version (where Anders sounds just like you'd expect, as for Anderson) in the U.S. and his father and Danish family will use the Danish pronunciation with the virtually silent "d" in the middle. I did raise that concern with my husband but he said he would fully expect it to be pronounced different in the U.S. (and in fact there is a slight difference in how Christian is pronounced here vs. there too, and that doesn't bug him). So luckily, pronunciation isn't going to be an issue either way. Will keep pondering since we've got 6 weeks to go but I'm feeling a lot more confident already that people won't give me too many weird looks if we go with Anders. :)

Anonymous said...

I do immediately think of Hans Christian Anderson but i think it's ok.

vanessa steck said...

I love Anders. Easy to spell, easy to say, goes well with Christian..I like it a lot. I do know a Mathias in this country and I think it works fine, too. It's a great name use it! ;)

Jan said...

I also had the Hans Christian Anderson thought and actually like Mathias better for a first name (plus your husband seems to like M names). It's too bad you already used Kai, that would be great, too. Other names - Axel, Carl, Casper, Otto, or Viggo? Soren is becoming more familiar to American ears I think.

Sarah A said...

I would definitely go with Anders. I don't think there are any spelling or pronunciation issues at all. I really doubt your son will have any issues with it in the future. Plus Anders and Christian sound wonderful together. Congratulations!

Kas said...

I love the names Anders! i have actually never come across it before! Anders Mathias is a great name!

congrats xx

Marilyn said...

My heritage is Danish so I have considered Anders many times as well. I am only a very, very beginning Danish speaker (had 2 classes in college, plus know songs etc from my Nana) but i thought it was supposed to be pronounced "Anners" in Danish, and that's been my hesitation with using it. Everyone in the US would say And-ers, of course, and I somehow thought that would not be using the "real" Danish name. But, I do like And-ers just fine, it just seems like a different name to me. So . . . Am I wrong on that pronunciation? Or would you just overlook it? Or how would you handle it?

Anonymous said...

Love Anders!

AirLand said...

Anders is great! I hope you use it!

Melissa Haworth said...

My 6 year old went to preschool with an Anders and I loved the name so much I briefly considered it for my son but decided it was a bit too European when we don't have any particular ancestry to connect it with. BUT I LOVE it for you since it works for your husband's family and is such a great name here in America. Use Anders!!

Alison said...

I considered the name Anders (love it!) but it doesn't work with our last name. We don't have any Scandinavian roots or connections so maybe that will help you feel more comfortable with it :)

Anders Mathias sounds great together. I would have probably pronounced it Ma-thigh-us or Math-eeus but there aren't really any circumstances where someone would look at your middle name on a piece of paper and need to pronounce it out loud. And I agree with Swistle on spelling issues - I'm Alison Lindsey and pretty much always need to spell my names (though I can't even really think of a time when I've had to tell someone my middle name out loud and they've had to write it down).

Kathy said...

Marilyn -- yes it would be more like "Anners" when pronounced by Danes, but will certainly be "AND-ers" while we are in North America. I pointed that out to my husband early on when he suggested it and he said he realized that would be the case and it didn't bother him at all -- he fully expects American pronunciations when we live in the U.S. and Danish pronunciations in Denmark. Our last name is pronounced fairly differently in both countries as well. :)

He happens to have a very old-fashioned and unusual Nordic first name that causes an incredible amount of confusion now that he lives in an English-speaking country because is sounds just like an English number. You can imagine the looks he gets when introducing himself to someone for the first time -- you can tell they're (a) not sure he actually provided his name, since it sounds like he just told them a number, (b) wondering how on earth that is spelled. So he definitely is sensitive to issues like that when it comes to naming his children -- he wants the names to be easy to pronounce and spell in both languages.

Melanie said...

How about Anderson with the nickname Anders ... that would make it a bit more familar!

Leslie said...

Anders Mathias is very handsome! Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Hi i am looking at this post, because am considering the name Anders for our boy, funnily enough we also had a cromosone scare/amnio at 17 weeks which was very stressfull, and sounded very similar to yours, but baby is well. We werent going to find out the sex of the baby but decided we needed a bit of happy news after all that. My partner has a surname that originates from Norway and he found Anders a couple of months ago and its the only one we both kind of keep coming back to. How is your son getting on with his name? do people find it easy to pronounce/spell. We are from the UK so its quite unusual here. All best to you and yours x