A new trend is sweeping over Norway, fueled by some Norwegians’ desire to have more unique names. They’re tired of being one of thousands of Hansens, Olsens, Andersens or other last names ending in “-sen,” and they’re legally changing them.
“It was very boring to be called ‘Andersen,'” Sten Morten Misund-Asphaug told newspaper Dagsavisen. It carried a six-page story over the weekend about how Misund-Asphaug and many others like him have opted to rename themselves. He ended up taking on the name of his wife’s family farm: “Misund-Asphaug” simply seemed more special, even exotic, and he’s far from alone on literally and legally rebranding himself.
“The common ‘-sen’ names are falling like a rock,” confirms Ivar Utne, a language researcher at the University of Bergen and author of the book Hva er et navn? (What is a name?). He told Dagsavisen that only 14.5 percent of newborns in Norway now get a name ending in “sen,” down from 30 percent of today’s 90-year-olds. Utne added that at the beginning of the 1900s, at least half of all Norwegians had a “sen” name in Norway’s cities, 60- to 70 percent in Oslo (called “Kristiania” at the time).
In some cases, Norwegians have more unusual “-sen” names, like Enevoldsen or Barosen, especially if they come from Northern Norway. Many young urban Johansens, Karlsens and Jensens, though, are returning to the rural custom of taking on the name of the farm or village where their family originated. They’re tired of being one of 35,000 Andersens or Larsens in Norway and want a special, common name for their own family. Since most women in Norway no longer take on their husband’s last name when they marry, couples and their children can also often wind up with different names.
In the former Sten Morten Andersen’s case, his wife and their three children all now have the same last name of “Misund-Asphaug” and they’re the only ones to have it in the whole country. “Misund-Asphaug is a much more fun name (than Andersen),” he told Dagsavisen, “so yes, I probably feel a bit fresher.”