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Swedes to get more name-changing freedoms

Sweden may give its citizens greater leeway in changing their surname, but will still protect rare names including aristocratic families, if the government decides to push for a new proposal presented on Tuesday.

Swedes to get more name-changing freedoms

Justice Minister Beatrice Ask welcomed the reforms presented to the Swedish government on Tuesday by a committee (Namnlagskommittén) tasked with looking at potential reforms.

Among other things, the committee suggested that rules be eased for people wishing to have two surnames. Ask said such a reform would help women in particular who wanted to add their husband’s name to their maiden name.

“The most important thing about the proposal it that it makes things easier for people, as you would remove a lot of obstacles,” Ask told the TT news agency.

Swedes would also be given more freedom to swap surnames to completely new ones, as long as there are more than 2,000 people who use their desired names. Doing so would open up the field for people wanting to take more common names such as Andersson or Bergström.

Name researcher Eva Brylla, who took part in the committee, said that the proposal would lead the way to a modernized legislation.

“There’s more freedom to chose, people who want a very common surname can take it,” she told TT.

“It’s also good that people can have two surnames, instead of having one as a middle name which has just caused problems.”

Yet the proposal did not solely propose deregulation. It also recommended that there be more cohesive rules for names in order to avoid certain illegible or troublesome combinations of letters and numbers. The underlying motivation, which has previously guided much of Swedish name legislation that gives the authorities the right to veto parents’ choice of names for their children, is to protect children from comical and repulsive monikers.

The proposal also said Sweden should keep its protection of surnames that are very closely associated with one family, for example certain aristocratic names such as Gripensvärd, Lagersparre och Nordenstjerna.

The committee noted a rise in Swedes wanting to adopt rarer, family-specific names and said Sweden should not encourage the trend. In addition, certain well-known names where there are no surviving family members to carry the name on should be protected, the proposal suggested. Committee chair Olle Abrahamsson said there was a need to protect Swedish cultural traditions.

TT/The Local/at

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NAME

Swedish woman applied to change name to ‘Nazi’

A 28-year-old woman in Sweden has been refused permission to change her first name to 'Nazi' after the authorities deemed the name 'unsuitable', a regional newspaper reports.

Swedish woman applied to change name to 'Nazi'
According to Skånska Dagbladet, the name was rejected because of its association with Germany's National Socialist Party. Photo: Bengt Olof Åradsson/Wikimedia Commons
The woman, from the village of Tyringe, which is known more for its medieval church than far-right activity, made the application earlier this year. 
 
Ingegerd Widell, the development officer at the Swedish Tax Agency in charge of registering new names, said she could not confirm the story without knowing the name of the woman.  
 
“I would be extremely surprised if anyone would get that name,” she said. 
 
The Swedish Tax Agency, which handles Swedes' applications to change their name, only accepts new names if they do not cause problems for the holder or cause discomfort to others. 
 
According to the agency, before approving a name, its officials check if it could “cause offence, be presumed to cause discomfort for the individual or for some other reason are unsuitable”. 
 
According to the Skånska Dagbladet newspaper, which first reported on the case, the application was rejected because “the word Nazi is a short form of National Socialism and is associated with supporters of Nazism”. 
 
 
Last year, the agency turned down a 26-year-old man who wanted to change his first name to 'Prince', on the grounds that it was “not a word associated with a name”, and in 2011 a man's bid to have 'His Majesty' added to his name was turned down because it could lead to “misunderstandings”.
 
Another man did get to add 'King' to his name – an idea he came up with after a long night out – six years ago. But the Stockholmer, King Oliver, told The Local in 2016 that his family “still calls (him) Oliver”.
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