My Name is Friðþjófr – Sort Of

Fridtjof Nansen sculpture

Bloganuary prompt: Write about your first name: its meaning, significance, etymology, etc.

I often say my name is like a password; few people can spell it and almost everyone has trouble pronouncing it.


According to Wikipedia, the name is made up of the old Norse friðr (“peace”) + þjófr (“thief”).
So, it’s pretty much a mixed bag. A peace-thief
or a peaceful thief?

The name appears in all Scandinavian countries, and the spelling I use is Danish.

I usually tell people that my name is more common in Norway. That is because the famous explorer Fridtjof Nansen was one of the most prominent figures of his time.

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At some point, I had a picture of myself standing in front of a Nansen statue in Oslo, Norway. Sadly, that picture is lost to me now.

Fridtjof Nansen sculpture

Photo credit: Wolfmann, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How I Ended Up With This Name

I was born in Southern Germany (Schwabia) in 1964 to parents who had grown up in Northern Germany and didn’t speak the local dialect. In Schwabia people would add a “le” to any name of a cute or little thing. My parents wanted to find a name where it was impossible to do this. So they opened the official family book they were given at their wedding and consulted a list of names. They came across the name “Frithjof” and thought it was perfect.

Alas, when they took me out in public, people stopped and said. “Ha, noi da isch ja des Frithjöffle” 😀

But it was too late. I was stuck with a name nobody in Germany was familiar with and I often hated having such an unusual name.

When I immigrated to Canada in 1990, I was ready to ditch both of my names in favour of easier ones. But I noticed that people here cared about pronouncing and spelling it right. Suddenly, it was not my “fault” anymore that I had an unusual name.

It took another 20 years until my partner Michele came up with help. Now I say:

“Think about turning the “fridge off” and say it quickly. The result is very close to the correct pronunciation I have preferred for almost 60 years now.

But how would I pronounce the original Norwegian name? What I found made me think that I should probably stick with the “fridge off” clue.

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