Happy Monday, everyone! Today is the feast of St. Rita, one of my very favorites — I turned to her for intercession for some of the most *impossible* things in my life, after hearing of her powerful intercession from a friend who had an *impossible* thing happen after asking St. Rita for help — God has worked through her in amazing ways! I wrote more about St. Rita here and how to honor her in baby naming here. St. Rita, pray for us!
Did you all see Swistle’s lastest post about finding a name that works in Germany and the United States? I was fascinated by what the letter writer (an American) wrote about the restrictions she feels in naming her baby, who will spend significant time in Germany while growing up. Specifically:
“For some background on German names: there are a lot more unspoken rules around naming a child. If you look up ‘kevinism’ you will see just some of the rules linked to Germany. These include not giving your child a super ‘american/british’ name, not doing a super american/french name with a german last name, place/thing names are not acceptable, and names that are of german/latin/hebrew (biblical) descent are seen the most proper and correct. Scandinavian names are also popular in Germany. There are some exceptions to these rules, but generally these rules apply. While some younger germans are pushing away from these rules, they are still very much followed by many.“
Kevinism! A new word to me! I looked it up and found the article “The Strange German Disease Called ‘Kevinism’: Can a Lame Name Mess Up Your Life?” in Discover magazine (links in the quote were in the article; I didn’t add them):
“Another day, another crazy German noun: Kevinismus, which basically means, ‘You’re named Kevin? Sucks to be you.’ According to a study of interactions on the German dating site eDarling, online daters don’t even bother to click on the profiles of users with names that seem foreign and gauche to German ears, like Kevin. The authors suggest that this online neglect due to their unpopular names mirrors lifelong social neglect, which is also responsible for making Kevins smoke more, get less education, and have lower self-esteem. …
An article on Kevinism [note: this article contains a lot of German] in Die Welt quotes sociologist Jürgen Gerhards, who asserts that Anglo-American names (Mandy, Justin, Angelina to name a few more) are a lower-class phenomenon. It seems that no one has actually crunched the numbers to prove that, but jokes like ‘Only druggies and Easterners are named Kevin‘ suggest he’s on to something.”
Had you heard of this??
The mom gave a list of some of the names that she said won’t work, including:
“Lucy- the name we both love, but cannot use because it is seen as an English name and not a proper name in Germany. Plus, the older generations in Germany who do not speak English pronounce it like ‘lutzie’ which is not a dealbreaker, but we want a name that everyone feels comfortable with. …
Claire- we are both ‘okay’ with this name. Germans would prefer it to be Clara, but we can get away with Claire …
Kaia- a name I like, it would work in Germany b/c of its scandinavian origins …
Maren- another name that we’ve thrown around. Also diverts from my typical leanings for more classic names, but it is shorter. I like the meaning ‘of the sea.’ It is a German/Danish name, but older name in Germany and I think it is rising in America. …
Lily- the only ‘flower/thing’ name that Germans find acceptable, because they do not consider this name to be a flower. In Germany, the name is spelled ‘Lilly’ and comes from the full name Elizabeth. …”
Fascinating! It reminds me of the story Jenny Uebbing related about her Joseph Kolbe:
“… while traveling in Italy (the first time) we chatted up a capuchin Franciscan from Poland in a restaurant in Assisi of all places, and as he bounced 7-month-old Joey on his knee, we proudly told him that his middle name was Kolbe ‘for Father Max.’ The happy friar shot us a look of horror and asked in disbelief You took his family name?! So I guess the American trend of assuming surnames is not kosher the world over.”
Anyway, back to Kevinism — some more info from Swistle’s readers:
“I am German and have named two children in the last four years in the knowledge that a move to the UK in the next years is quietly likely. Swistle has excellent advice, but I would like to add the following: ‘Kevinism’ is a thing BUT if you know that one parent of the child is from an English speaking country people will be a lot more understanding.”
“Another German Mom (and teacher) here.
Please don’t worry too much about kevinism. It’s on the way out and only pertains to some American names.
Essentially, it’s the same as in the US: if you want to avoid scorn, avoid ‘made-up’ spellings, lots of y’s and celebrity names
Rose (pronounced Rosuh) is actually a fairly traditional given name in Germany. It’s often but not always short for Rosemarie and it is quite dated (a grandma name), but it does exist. And Rosa is considered quite modern. …
Please don’t let the Internet scare you so much. I promise we are not that conservative!!! And just as in the US, we have so many new immigrants coming in, that our children’s generation will see this very differently.”
And there were several other comments that were helpful and enlightening; some gave some great name suggestions, and some pointed out which names are considered “dated” in Germany. I loved reading all of it!
Finally, this comment is kind of amazing!:
“So! I wrote in a long, long time ago about my (now deservedly ex-) boyfriend who hated noun names with a passion, but wouldn’t explain why. I remember you wondering, Swistle, why he hated them so much.
This genuinely answers that: he was German! I didn’t realise that was a German thing! The resolution I never knew I needed.”
Wow! So many things to learn in that post! Do any of you have experience with German naming? Do you agree with the conversation going on in this Swistle post between what the letter writer feels are her limitations and what the commenters are saying?
Read all about how to get your own baby name consultation from either Theresa or myself here.
For help with Marian names, my book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon (not affiliate links). It’s perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!
9 thoughts on “German naming rules”
I think WordPress ate my comment, so I’ll keep it concise this time:
I’ve lived in Germany and I definitely noticed a difference in my peers’ names in Germany compared to in the US. There is definitely a strong culture of what is a “German” name, and many of those are names you’d never see in the US, or at least they’d be unusual – Elke, Bettina, Mechtild, Florian… Sebastian is now popular in the US but it wasn’t yet when I first lived in Germany so I marveled at the use of it!!
Also, I have a very common/typical/“heard of” nickname in the US/English speaking countries (Annie) and anytime I encounter someone whose first language is something else, they struggle with it. So I see how a somewhat insulated culture would prioritize its own names. As with other cultural topics I am also not surprised that “Kevinism” is becoming less of a thing as Germany becomes more multicultural, though that process has not been painless!!!
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The kevinismus thing is frankly quite classist: the idea is that “trashy” people name their children English names after soap operas or pop idols, not nice middle class people. Nowadays you have names like Liam that are popular all over Europe and are being used by all sort of people from across classes and backgrounds, so I really wouldn’t worry about using a classic name like Rose or June.
I am Italian with a Scottish boyfriend, I intend to name my children using Jewish and family names. Sure they will perceived in one way in the UK and in another way in Italy, but my main concern is pronunciation, not wether anyone thinks they’re not “proper”.
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Your perspective is always so helpful!
When you say “Jewish,” do you mean Old Testament names? Or names traditionally mostly used by Jewish families?
That’s a good question. I would say I consider “Jewish names” names I have heard used by Jews I have met, so a mix of old testament and modern Israeli. If my children were Italian I would probably use names like Amos (pronounced ah-mohs) and Ilan (pronounced eelan), so a mix of old testament and modern Israeli. They are names I heard growing up as they were used in my community. We’ll probably go with something more classic Old Testament like Samuel. Bonus points because it’s a family name on both sides.
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Kevin and Chantal are def on the way out in Austria and Germany but Justin which has become more common in the last 15 years is similarly frowned upon. As another poster said it is more of a snobby classist thing. Most richer higher educated people don’t use Justin (Kevin or Chantal – the female version of Kevin ) in the German speaking world
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Another reader told me Chantalism is the female version of Kevinism, fascinating!
Also as a mom of 4 in a multi cultural multi passport international German speaking family, I would advise her not to worry! All of our children‘s names are pronounceable in both English and German BUT of their names are very very uncommon in both English and German! And it has never ever been an issue living on either continent .
In terms of Claire, Clara or rather Klara would be more accepted in Germany speaking places ! (Interesting is that in Austria and baveria I have never met a Maren Claire Kaia -so cute though –
Lili or Lily yes as a nickname for several girl’s names ) In General English speaking names have become extremely trendy in German speaking places and Kevin /Chantal/made up spellings are exceptions bc they are considered to be trashy. It’s not necessarily the English origins of the names! Many young people purposely use trendier English names (mostly from films/TV series ) in German speaking countries. Most classic names have an international version that is easy in German or even in multiple languages like Maria Clara Anna Anne Elisabeth Susanna Noah Paul Mark(us) Peter Rosa Rose Julia Christian Christina there are so many !!!
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Yes re: classic names — so many variants in so many languages!
[…] speaking of regional differences (and my second mention of German naming practices this week!), I have friends in Germany whose son was just confirmed and when I asked if he took a […]