Currently, the cities of Linköping and Norrköping in eastern Sweden refer to their common metropolitan area as the rather unpoetic “Sveriges fjärde storstadsregion” (‘Sweden’s fourth largest metropolitan area’) in Swedish and the “Twin Cities of Sweden” in English.
The region boasts a combined population of roughly 420,000, placing it after the Sweden’s three biggest cities Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö.
In an effort to come up with a snazzier way to draw attention to the region, local officials have proposed ditching the current Swedish and English names in favour of “East Sweden”.
But the planned name change has caused a language Swedish language preservation network to cry foul.
“It’s completely absurd that a regional marketing company, which is 40 percent owned by two municipalities in Östergötland in Sweden, be given an English name,” the Nätverket Språkförsvaret (‘Language defence network’) said in a statement this week.
According to Linköping municipality, the name “East Sweden” meets all the criteria that would enable the region to boost the region’s brand “not least because it contains one of the world’s strongest trademarks, ‘Sweden'”.
The new name will “give opportunities to more clearly position the region based on content and strengths as well as its location in the world”, the region said in a statement.
Moreover, the region’s current trademark remains an obstacle to the region gaining global recognition, officials claim.
But Språkförsvaret slammed the move, pointing out that English is neither a main language or a national minority language in Sweden, and argued that all publicly funded companies in Sweden should have a main name in Swedish.
“Isn’t there a risk that the term ‘Sweden’ will be devalued, if every part of Sweden follows suit to be satisfied with being different points on a compass? North Sweden, West Sweden, South Sweden, Southeast Sweden, Southwest Sweden, Middle Sweden, et cetera,” the group wrote.
Also problematic is the fact that East Sweden already exists – in the United States.
Founded in 1885 by Swedish immigrant Swen Leander Hurd and his family, East Sweden is known as something of a ghost town in nestled on the plains of central Texas in a county with a total population of less than 10,000 people.
In addition, there is a small village in Maine in the northeastern United States which also goes by the name East Sweden.
“Where is East Sweden?” Språkförsvaret asks sarcastically, pointing out that using the name may actually create more confusion than it alleviates.
But according to a statement from the region, changing its name from Fjärde Storstadsregionens to East Sweden is key toward raising the area’s profile.
“Thus the term ‘East Sweden’ – which is already used by many businesses in the region in their international contacts – will be raised and tied even closer to our work,” the region said.