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Does Iceland have the right idea?

REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) - Call her the girl with no name.

A 15-year-old is suing the Icelandic state for the right to legally use the name given to her by her mother. The problem? Blaer, which means "light breeze" in Icelandic, is not on a list approved by the government.

Like a handful of other countries, including Germany and Denmark, Iceland has official rules about what a baby can be named. 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 and that officials maintain will protect children from embarrassment. Parents can take from the list or apply to a special committee that has the power to say yea or nay.

In Blaer's case, her mother said she learned the name wasn't on the register only after the priest who baptized the child later informed her he had mistakenly allowed it.

"I had no idea that the name wasn't on the list, the famous list of names that you can choose from," said Bjork Eidsdottir, adding she knew a Blaer whose name was accepted in 1973. This time, the panel turned it down on the grounds that the word Blaer takes a masculine article, despite the fact that it was used for a female character in a novel by Iceland's revered Nobel Prize-winning author Halldor Laxness.

Given names are even more significant in tiny Iceland that in many other countries: Everyone is listed in the phone book by their first names. Surnames are based on a parent's given name. Even the president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, is addressed simply as Olafur.

Blaer is identified as "Stulka" – or "girl" – on all her official documents, which has led to years of frustration as she has had to explain the whole story at the bank, renewing her passport and dealing with the country's bureaucracy.

Her mother is hoping that will change with her suit, the first time someone has challenged a names committee decision in court.

Though the law has become more relaxed in recent years – with the name Elvis permitted, inspired by the charismatic rock and roll icon whose name fits Icelandic guidelines – choices like Cara, Carolina, Cesil, and Christa have been rejected outright because the letter "c" is not part of Iceland's 32-letter alphabet.

"The law is pretty straightforward so in many cases it's clearly going to be a yes or a no," said Agusta Thorbergsdottir, the head of the committee, a panel of three people appointed by the government to a four-year term.

Other cases are more subjective.

"What one person finds beautiful, another person may find ugly," she acknowledged. She pointed to "Satania" as one unacceptable case because it was deemed too close to "Satan."

The board also has veto power over people who want to change their names later in life, rejecting, for instance, middle names like Zeppelin and X.

When the artist Birgir Orn Thoroddsen applied to have his name legally changed to Curver, which he had used in one form or another since age 15, he said he knew full well the committee would reject his application.

"I was inspired by Prince who changed his name to The Artist Formerly Known As Prince and Puff Daddy who changed his to P. Diddy and then Diddy with seemingly little thought or criticism," he said. "I applied to the committee, but of course I got the `No' that I expected."

On his thirtieth birthday, he bought a full-page advertisement that read, "From February 1, 2006, I hereby change my name to Curver Thoroddsen. I ask the nation, my friends and colleagues to respect my decision."

"I can understand a clause to protect children from being named something like `Dog poo,' but it is strange that an adult cannot change his name to what he truly wants," he said.

Thoroddsen is keeping his protest to the media. But Eidsdottir says she is prepared to take her case all the way to the country's Supreme Court if a court doesn't overturn the commission decision on Jan. 25.

"So many strange names have been allowed, which makes this even more frustrating because Blaer is a perfectly Icelandic name," Eidsdottir said. "It seems like a basic human right to be able to name your child what you want, especially if it doesn't harm your child in any way."

"And my daughter loves her name," she added.


Just makes me think of all the crazy names people keep giving their kids. I saw something yesterday where someone named their baby girl. "Ever" 

What are your thoughts on this?


Asked by LostSoul88 at 10:42 AM on Jan. 4, 2013 in Politics & Current Events

Level 40 (119,496 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (15)
  • I like the name Ever actually
    I think a list of what you CANNOT name them would be better

    Answer by butterflyblue19 at 10:58 AM on Jan. 4, 2013

  • I agree with IGA1965.

    Answer by TBandNCmommy at 11:47 AM on Jan. 4, 2013

  • The basic idea isn't bad but parents should have the responsibility of naming their child whatever they want. I've seen some of the crazy names changed by the child as soon as they can or give theirselves nicknames to get away from "hashtag".

    Answer by baconbits at 10:50 AM on Jan. 4, 2013

  • It doesn't seem right that Iceland has a list and if the name you want to choose for your child has to be on their list! That's crazy. I do agree that some of the names people choose for their kids nowdays in the USA are totally bizarre.But,still, the Government can't dictate what you choose.

    Answer by lga1965 at 10:59 AM on Jan. 4, 2013

  • I agree with the premise but, I think it's taken a bit far.

    Answer by 3libras at 11:07 AM on Jan. 4, 2013

  • I don't like the idea of a government that can approve or reject the name you give to your child. I don't think that should be government's job. They can hardly deal with the things they are supposed to be responsible for now. Not to mention we have some real idiots serving as elected officials.

    Answer by QuinnMae at 11:23 AM on Jan. 4, 2013

  • Given some of the names people give their kids in the US I am tempted to agree. Some names should not be allowed, like FACEBOOK. Why in the hell would anyone name their child Facebook. Maybe a list of what you cannot name your child would be a good idea. Sooner or later someone is gonna name their child something so offensive that the state in the form of CPS will step in. Until then crazy names will continue. Maybe the above case goes too far but I can see how it would help.

    Answer by booklover545 at 11:25 AM on Jan. 4, 2013

  • The list pf permitted names may have started from a logical cause - such as a list of saints names (this was the case in France until fairly recently). It's just a starting point not a definitive, unbending list until the end of time.

    Answer by winterglow at 11:31 AM on Jan. 4, 2013

  • Obviously their government can and does.

    I do think that many of these names (oddball) are detrimental to a child. JMO
    If a person is an adult I think they should be able to rename themselves what they like within socially acceptable gudelines as in no Dog Poop Jones.

    Answer by Dardenella at 12:21 PM on Jan. 4, 2013

  • if i understand correctly the govt is trying to keep names Icelandic, so its a national pride thing more than a crazy name prevention thing. so i see where they are coming from, but it wouldnt work here. i understand having a list of names you cant give your kid (like Sonny & Cher originally named Chaz Bono, God, but werent allowed) but Iceland takes it too far.

    plus, thats not very many names especially for a society that goes by their first names.

    Answer by okmanders at 2:19 PM on Jan. 4, 2013