View Full Version : What's in a name?

June Pelo
08-05-14, 22:00
Every year thousands of Finns change their last names. And when they do, that new name has to be approved by the Advisory Committee on Names. A person can change their surname to one elsewhere in their family or to an invented new one. The criteria for an invented name is that it must not be in use by any other person. Old family names that have been out of use for at least a decade can be accepted as new ones, or couples can make a new family name by combining both of their current names.

The deciding criteria is that the new surname sounds and feels in keeping with Finland's existing pool of names in order to preserve Finnish tradition. Names that don't sound Finnish or Swedish, or are offensive are rejected.

The Population Register Centre holds a record of every Finnish surname in existence, allowing people to check whether a name is already in use. Applicants don't have to explain their reasons for wanting to change names. About 70% of married women choose to take their husband's name. That number has come down steadily since the mid-1980s when new naming regulations came into force, and now a quarter of couples decide to keep both their own second names. And though some see this as increasing evidence of equality, it's still uncommon for a man to take his wife's surname.

FAR May 2014