What’s in a name?

Scandinavian Center at California Lutheran University ponders Scandinavian “name days”

Photo: Fred Tonsing, courtesy of CLU Scan Center Anita Londgren, coordinator of the Brown Bag Lunches, co-director of the Scandinavian Center, and board member of the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation (SACHF), leads the review of name-days calendars.

Photo: Fred Tonsing, courtesy of CLU Scan Center
Anita Londgren, coordinator of the Brown Bag Lunches, co-director of the Scandinavian Center, and board member of the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation (SACHF), leads the review of name-days calendars.

Richard & Anita Londgren
CLU Scandinavian Center

During a Brown Bag Lunch gathering earlier this year at the Scandinavian Center at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, the 23 persons in attendance concentrated on more than their lunch. They studied calendars from Scandinavia in search of a name day of interest.

As leader of the “search,” Scandinavian Center Director Anita Hillesland Londgren told about the history of names associated with calendar dates. Originally, they were named for saints. And she mentioned that some dates were left blank because they were considered sacred. But, she explained, parents or the individuals themselves might personally choose such a date if the person’s name wasn’t included otherwise.

In referring to her husband Richard (co-director of the ScanCenter), she said that Rikard is included in some calendars. And certain calendars also added the nickname “Dick.” She reported that during their visit to Norway, that dual-name puzzled her relatives, who wondered if “Dick” was a different person than “Richard.” In fact, sometimes the two names are not linked in Scandinavia.

Photo courtesy of CLU Scan Center  The cover of a calendar listing Norwegian name days in 2002.

Photo courtesy of CLU Scan Center
The cover of a calendar listing Norwegian name days in 2002.

However, England’s Richard the Lion-Hearted was likely called Prince Dick earlier in his life. Of course, he could claim Norse roots as a descendent of William the Conqueror of Normandy. And, according to Shakespeare, another descendant, the arrogant Henry VIII was called Prince Hal by his pals in his rambunctious earlier days.

But “what’s in a name?” Shakespeare wondered via Romeo and Juliet. In that play, Juliet declared that a name is just an artificial and meaningless convention.

Not always so in Scandinavia, Anita declared as her “class” studied and discussed names on the calendars she distributed. In the past, rigid standards applied to naming for a variety of reasons, such as honoring a parent or ancestor or recognizing an important leader in a community. Other limits still prevail regarding appropriateness of some names.

The old Scandinavian calendars that served as references survived, thanks to the collecting of Patricia Sladek. When she was on the board of the Scandinavian American Cultural & Historical Foundation (SACHF, parent organization of the ScanCenter), she served as the organization’s historian, and kept a file of Scandinavian calendars for several years.

So Pat (aka Patricia) expressed appreciation that her calendar collection had surfaced to serve again.

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 26, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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