What's in a name? Some background on mine, Sander-Martijn

Since I am so frequently asked about my name, I thought it might interest some to read about its background.

Personal background

Sander-Martijn is my first name. It is a Dutch dubbele naam, or "double name", which is nothing more than two names joined by a hyphen. While in many cultures, including the U.S., it is common to have a double surname, it is less common to have a double given name - perhaps the most common is French, where names like Jean-Pierre or Anne-Marie are common. My last name is an old American surname, predating revolutionary times. I don't use it as a photographer because Sander-Martijn is plenty long enough. My mother is Dutch and my father American. I was born in the U.S. (in New Orleans) and baptized in the Netherlands. I am a dual citizen and have spent time in the Netherlands but never lived there, so I speak very little Dutch. My Father chose Sander and my Mother chose Martijn. In person people just call me Sander.

Name background and pronounciation

Sander is the most common shortening of Alexander, followed by the more obvious Alex. In the Netherlands Alexander is pronounced Aleksunder (pronounciations are an approximation English speakers can understand) so in turn Sander is pronounced Sunder (again, not exactly, but that's probably the closest a non-dutch speaker will get). Martijn is a variation of Martin and pronounced closest to Martain. The easiest way to remember that is that ij, written in cursive, looks exactly like ÿ - and indeed pronounced exactly the same.

Historical background of the dubbele naam

I have tried and failed to find an article written in English explaining this, so I will instead give you the best account I can from what I have been told and what I have read with my weak Dutch - if a Dutch person reads this and has any corrections or additions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Double first names occured occasionally in the Netherlands due to past French influence, but were by no means common and even illegal in some cities including Utrecht. However, in 1967 the Royal family gave birth to Willem-Alexander, the crown prince (who is, incidentally, sometimes called Sander) in Utrecht. The city of Utrecht, not wanting to upset the Royal family, quickly changed the law to allow him to be named as the Queen and Prince desired. Willem-Alexander is very popular in the Netherlands, in part because if he becomes King he will be the first King of the Netherlands since 1890. Because of this, double names have become much more popular since his birth, and Dutch baby naming sites actually have a category that lists options.

I'm not certain why my parents chose to give me a dubbele naam instead of a first name and a middle name, but I'm glad they did, as I appreciate having a unique name.

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