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Lara's theme continues among Swiss babies

Reuters

Lara was the most popular girl's name in Switzerland in 2008, ranking high in all four national language regions, with Tim and Nathan the favourite for boys.

This content was published on August 10, 2009 - 21:46

Pop culture continues to be a big influence on Swiss parents, according to the "First name hit parade 2006-2008", published by the Federal Statistics Office on Monday.

In 2008, 76,691 births were registered – just under one every seven minutes – and the 269 Laras born in German-speaking Switzerland were enough to boost the name from eighth the previous year and keep Lena and Sara at a chubby arm's length.

In the same part of the country Tim defended the male top spot from Luca and Leon.

In French-speaking Switzerland Emma saw off Chloé and Eva, with Nathan once again at number one followed by Luca and Lucas.

In the Italian-speaking part of the country Alessandro, Matteo, Giulia and Martina were most popular.

The small number of births among Switzerland's 35,000 Romansh speakers results in large fluctuations, but 2008 was the year of Gian and Giulia – with five and four deliveries respectively.

Influences

The increase in popularity of Lara – not to be confused with Sara, Mara or Yara, who also feature in the list – could well be down to the success of Lara Gut, Switzerland's photogenic young alpine skier who exploded onto the scene in 2007 and won two silver medals at the 2009 World Championships.

"Pop culture definitely plays a role," Marcel Heiniger from the demographics section of the Federal Statistics Office told swissinfo.ch.

"Another example which was evident a couple of years ago was the girl's name Fiona – after a former Miss Switzerland – which suddenly appeared in the top ten and is still number 20."

So maybe next year will see an explosion of Whitneys, after the current belle, Whitney Toyloy?

"It's hard to say. We're not quite sure what the influences are. Sometimes it's names given by famous people or names that have been made famous by films. In the 1990s Kevin was one of the top names in Switzerland for a long time [after the Home Alone films]."

Kevin's days are numbered however and he's now to be found hanging out with Aaron, Finn and Marc down in 47th.

Sounds familiar

Music is also an influence. Lily jumped from 109th to 40th in French-speaking Switzerland, just as British singer Lily Allen was topping the charts.

And the biggest winner of the year by far was Leona, down in 35th in German-speaking Switzerland but up from 143th. Another British pop artist, Leona Lewis, whose album Spirit and single Run both enjoyed massive Swiss success, was probably the cause. The name also tripled in popularity in Britain over the same period.

Among the men, Daniel was the biggest jumper – possibly a result of some wishful nominative determinism on the part of parents who had seen Daniel Craig in the latest Bond film...

And for some onomastic predictions: after the death of the so-called King of Pop in June will hundreds of Michaels – currently off the charts – be taking their first moonwalks around Switzerland next year?

Not to forget Myla Rose and Charlene Riva, potentially the greatest female tennis double act of all time. Although it must be said that while Federer is a household name, Roger isn't.

Immigration

While Mohamed has become the most popular boy's name in other parts of Europe like Brussels, Heiniger says immigration doesn't appear to be a large influence on names in Switzerland.

"The majority of people living in Switzerland are Swiss nationals and they dominate the names. So immigration is not a big influence, but the trend of course is that Swiss parents tend to give their children foreign-sounding names. I think this is again down to pop culture, status. They probably think it sounds better," he said.

"The traditional Swiss-German names that were given 30, 40 years ago – Hans, Fritz, Kurt and so on – are totally gone."

Tradition

Swiss parents have traditionally opted for relatively traditional, often biblical names.

One of the reasons why they didn't in the past go for unusual names was that they couldn't: local registry offices would veto any names deemed inappropriate. Objects are banned, although flowers are allowed.

In one relatively high-profile case ten years ago, Christine Lauterburg, a famous-within-Switzerland musician, was told she couldn't call her daughter "Lexikon".

Nowadays however all local registries agree with the line taken by Zurich's civil registrar that "parents are basically free to choose their child's name as long as it is not likely to damage the interests of the child".

While Knox Léon and Vivienne Marcheline Jolie-Pitt would probably be accepted – and Myla Rose and Charlene Riva Federer definitely were – the authorities might have had a word in actor Nicholas Cage's ear when he called his son Kal-El (Superman's birthname).

Thomas Stephens, swissinfo.ch

In brief

The Federal Statistics Office has been publishing a list of the most popular names in Switzerland since 1987.

The figures are based on data provided by the official register offices in the 26 cantons.

In 2008, 76,691 births were registered: 37,142 girls and 39,549 boys.

Of Switzerland's 7.7 million inhabitants, 63.7% speak German, 20.3% French, 6.5% Italian and 0.5% Romansh.

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Key facts

Lara and Tim were the most popular names in the German-speaking part of Switzerland in 2008.
Emma and Nathan were top of the list in the French-speaking region.
Giulia and Alessandro were top in the Italian-speaking regions.

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What's in a name?

In June 2009 an interesting campaign was launched by a cantonal organisation for people in Switzerland with a migration background. They want people to be able to change their name without any problem as part of the naturalisation process.

Studies show it's harder finding somewhere to live in Switzerland if you have a foreign name – especially one from the Balkans. The same is often the case when applying for a job.

In the United States officially changing one's name is simple; in Switzerland it is anything but.

First of all there must be "important reasons", according to the civil code (article 30). What counts as important is decided by the relevant cantonal government.

The Federal Court adds that you can't change your name to cover your tracks, but "ridiculous, ugly or offensive names" or those "which are always being mangled" have a good chance.

The fear of not being able to make any progress because of your name is not considered a satisfactory reason.

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