Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The "Lille Lennart Lottery"

JenniferSwedish names came up as a topic of discussion last week at some fika or another, as V.'s sambo is due to deliver their baby on May 5, and they haven't chosen a name yet. V. said he was thinking of the name "Lennart," which caused both K. and P., a female graduate student of a different professor, to make yucky faces and simultaneously say "Lennart?!" in the exact same tone of disbelief and disgust. I ventured my opinion that "Lennart" sounded okay to me, on the face of it, but apparently the name "Lennart" makes a Swede think of nothing as much as a 70 year old man who is both fat and disreputable.

So we discussed names for a while, and apparently shortening "Lennart" to "Lenny" is no good either, because for some reason Swedish jails are disproportionately filled with men whose names end in the letter "y." "You might as well just have the baby in jail, if you name him Jonny or Conny [which is a male name here]," said V.

At some point the conversation lulled, and into the silence I asked who was in charge of the baby betting pool. The what? said everyone. You know, when you bet on the date of the birth, I explained. No, no one here has ever heard of such a thing, they said. What a strange custom! How very American! Let's do it!

So yesterday I officially started the baby betting pool, which I have named the "Lille Lennart Lottery" because the poor child will always be Lennart to me now, I'm afraid. I asked around to get an idea of an appropriate amount of money for a friendly bet, and have settled on 20 SEK to buy a day, which conveniently comes in a note. I have to say, for people who have never heard of the custom, they are throwing themselves into it with gusto. People are closely questioning V. as to whether he has any inside information that he's willing to share, and this of course is also generating some slightly bawdy humor at his expense. For his part, V. has announced that he could be bribed into slipping the mother various labor-inducing substances (pineapple is the food of choice in these parts) at the appropriate time. He himself is betting on a date a few days before May 5.

Running the pool is fun, but I am going to miss V., who intends to take his full 8 months of paternity leave at 90% of his salary (80% from the state with a 10% bonus from the University). Yes, you read that right: after the baby is born, he will be gone until January 2009, during which time he will earn 90% of what he is making now. Furthermore, the graduate school "clock" stops for child care (otherwise, you have five years to finish your degree). Isn't that civilized?

Meanwhile, here's another important lesson in cultural expectations: if you propose a course of action, such as a baby betting pool, you had better be ready to follow through. I will try to remember this before I suggest anything more onerous.

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