The First Part

19 02 2013

On 31 January 2013,  a 15-year old, Blær Bjarkardóttir, who had been identified as “Girl” since birth as “Blær” was deemed by Icelandic authorities as an improper, unfeminine name, was allowed to keep her name! “Blær” means “gentle breeze” in Icelandic. The Reykjavík District Court recently overturned the rejection by Icelandic authorities. Up until the latest ruling, Blaer was referred to simply as “stulka” (“the girl”) in all official documents and litigation.

Popular female names.

Popular female names.

Like a handful of other countries, including Germany and Denmark, Iceland has official rules about what a baby can be named.First names not previously used in Iceland must be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee (Mannanafnanefnd) before being used. In a country comfortable with a firm state role, most people don’t question the Personal Names Register, a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules. Parents can take from the list or apply to the special committee that has the power to say yea or nay. Parents are allowed a maximum of three names, i.e., two first names, and one middle name, or three first names.

The Personal Names Act of 1996 states “Names may not conflict with the linguistic structure of Icelandic. They shall be written in accordance with the ordinary rules of Icelandic orthography. Girls shall be given women’s names, and boys shall be given men’s names. A forename may not be such as to cause its bearer embarrassment.” The criterion for acceptance of names is whether or not they can be easily incorporated into the Icelandic language. First, they must contain only letters found in the Icelandic alphabet and second, they must be able to be declined (that is, modified according to their grammatical case). For example, names with the letter “C” in them, like Christina, are banned since there is no such letter in the Icelandic alphabet. To a lesser extent, names are approved based on whether or not the it has appeared before in Icelandic history. However, the female name Virginia is approved, likely due to the popularity of the John Denver song Country Road.

Popular Male names.

Popular male names.




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