A boy called Emma?: Proposed Finnish naming law

A boy called Emma?: Proposed Finnish naming law

Imagine a boy named Emma or a girl named Joshua. Sounds strange? Sounds normal? In Finland, these gender-switching names may become a reality.

The current Finish naming law, dating from 1985, is about to be obsolete. Until now, the law banned giving a female child a male name, and a male child a female name, but a new proposal may change that.

The law, considered controversial by some, would allow parents to give their children names regardless of  the gender  to which they might be associated. However, chosen names may not be offensive, inappropriate or incite harm to children.

Other countries also have unique naming laws, such Norway where you must ask for permission to change your surname to one that 200 or fewer people bear. In the US, many states require that names need to adhere to the 26 letters of a standard keyboard. So a child can be called Jose, but not José. In other countries, certain names are banned.

What do you think of the proposed Finnish law? Should a name should be clearly male or female, or is there some leeway? Are there any gender-switched names in your family tree?

Let us know in the comments below.


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  • Celle54

    May 21, 2015

    I have a grandchild with the name Randee.

  • Renee

    May 22, 2015

    In the South Africa it was very common amongst those of Dutch ancestry for the girls to be given the male family names with a feminine twist, eg Wilhelmina, Jacoba, etc. It was also common for sons to be given their mother’s maiden names, eg Walters, Janse, etc.

  • Maari Evetts

    May 22, 2015

    I always considered Chelsea to be a girls name until I started on the family tree and discovered that grandad’s sisters husband was named Chelsea. He was known as Chel. I believe there are many names in the English language that are interchangeable, but not so commonly used for both sexes these days.

  • Joe Hay

    May 24, 2015

    There must be a good story behind the reason why in 1794 my 3X great grandparents, Adam & Agnes Hay, named their female child Douglass. It has caused more than a few records to list her as a male.

    As is common in Scottish families the name was passed on and on. I have twenty or more females that carry the name sometimes with the double “S”, but more frequently just as a male spells it.
    Some of the families in my tree that have used this name for their female children are Barr, Currie, Fulton, Laing, Cockburn, and of course Hay.

    I found one child that started using a nickname. In the 1910 US census of Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, she is listed as Dolly, though her birth record shows her name to be Douglas.