User:Johan (WMF)/On names and Ö

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A short essay, because I get asked about my first name so often at Wikimedia events but this is the only thing I actually care about people getting right.

On names and Ö[edit]

A very common question I get when Wikimedians congregate is so how do you pronounce your name? and then they spend a short while trying to get Johan right. Usually without succeeding, but that's fine. I'll listen to almost anything that resembles my name as long as I can figure out you're referring to me, and I'm sure I garble a lot of names in languages I don't speak. But if you do want to be polite? There's one thing you can do for me. Don't drop the tréma in my surname, Jönsson.

Ö is, in a number of languages, not merely an O with two dots. It's a letter in its own right, with a very distinct sound. Ö is as important in the Swedish alphabet as Y is. For example, when Swedish children learn to write, they normally don't confuse Å or Ä with A. The sounds are different enough that this is not a problem. They do confuse Ä with the often similar-sounding E, and Å with the often similar-sounding O, though.

In most cases, it's not a practical problem when the dots or rings are left out. If a Swede is called Akesson, Swedes will assume the name is actually Åkesson. Åkesson is a common surname; no one in Sweden is called Akesson. Mail sent to Lingonvagen 10 will reach Lingonvägen 10. However:

Jönsson is the 16th most common surname in Sweden.[1] Jonsson is the 12th most common surname in Sweden.[1]

You're not omitting an insignificant detail of my name. You're giving me a new one. This could occasionally lead to practical problems. If you tell a Swede to contact Johan Jonsson, they might not find me, because they're not looking for a Jönsson. If you post something to a Jönsson, written as Jonsson, and there's an actual Jonsson living in the same building, they might get it instead. Someone with a name tag calling them Jonsson might not be contacted by others from the Nordic countries after a conference, because they were looking for the wrong person.

So – if you want to spend your energy on getting something right about my name, this is an excellent thing to focus on.


  1. a b Efternamn, topp 100 2015 och 2014, SCB. Read on 2017-01-18.