Is this the end for Jankes, Sijkes, and Epkes?
Translated by Thomas Ansell
In an online lecture given on Thursday evening, Utrecht University linguistics researcher Gerrit Bloothooft predicted that traditional Frisian names could die out in the Netherlands within 50 years. As reported by the Omrop Fryslân, the Province has some of the most idiosyncratic names in the Netherlands, however there is a strong trend towards less Frisian first names. In Leeuwarden, Sneek, and Harlingen, for example, only around 10 percent of children are given a traditional name.
According to Bloothooft, trends around names are hard to pin down to one cause: “parents often say that they just like the name. If you ask why, they reply that they don’t know. This makes research quite difficult, because you can’t get a full understanding of why names become popular or decrease in use”.
In previous decades the pattern was quite easy to discern: people tended to name their children after family members. Eldest sons would often receive the name of their fathers’ father, and the first daughter the name of her mothers’ mother. After that, subsequent children would be names after grandparents, and then aunts and uncles.
“That was often classical, traditional names, that were passed on in this process. Think of Anne, Douwe, Sjoerd; Tjeerd, Bauke, Fokke; Sietse, and Lieuwe for men. For women these could be Sjoukje, Aukje, Jitske; Baukje, Geeske, Rinske; and Tietje”, says Bloothoft. Apparently, only 20 percent of Frisian parents choose a traditional name for their children now, whilst that figure was around 50 or 60 percent.
However, says Bloothooft, there is some hope; with some names having a revival in popularity: “For example Jorrit, Hylke, Hessel; Djurre, Riemer, Amarins; Rixt, Doutzen, and Elske. Lots of these names have become really popular post-2000”. One trend that Bloothooft has observed is names switching from often having a ‘tsje’ ending, to now having a ‘ke’ ending: for example ‘Frouke’ instead of ‘Froukje’.