Icelandic Teenager Sues For Right To Use Name Given To Her By Mother

567px-Coat_of_arms_of_Iceland.svgThere is an interesting case out of Reykjavik, Iceland where a 15-year-old girl is suing Iceland for the right to legally use the name that her mother gave her and the name that she prefers. While most Americans would be outraged, Iceland is one of the countries that requires all names of children to come from an approved government list. Since Blaer (Icelandic for “light breeze” is not on the approved list) she cannot go by the name given to her.

As with Germany and Denmark, Iceland regulates names — something that most Americans view as an inherently individual right and choice. Parents must choose from 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names to protect children from embarrassment. Parents can petition a special committee for the right to use an unapproved list. Clearly, this is not a country that Frank Zappa and his children Dweezil Zappa, Moon Unit Zappa, Ahmet Zappa, and Diva Zappa would find particularly hospitable.

Blaer’s parents were informed by a priest that she should not have been baptized due to her unapproved name and the special committee refused to make an exception because it takes a masculine article. Her family argued that this ignores the fact that the name was used for a female character in a novel by Iceland’s revered Nobel Prize-winning author Halldor Laxness. Thus, Blaer is an Icelandic name — just not a name approved by the government.

We have seen such controversies arise in in this country with children, for example, named after Adolph Hitler. However, this remains a protected right of parents. Indeed, parents have been known to given children a name from an opposite gender to instill character . . .

57 thoughts on “Icelandic Teenager Sues For Right To Use Name Given To Her By Mother

  1. I wonder if she reaches the age of majority if she can then legally change her name to whatever she wishes.

    An approved list: that is rather draconian.

    I wonder what would happen if a foreign woman was living in the country, let’s say she was a Native American. Would she be required to name the child according to some approved list, of which must conform to using the Icelandic alphabet? How would they name a girl who was born to woman who’s husband is named Warren (to make the second name Warrensdóttir) when Icelandic doesn’t have a W and the Icelandic Alphabet is a requirement?


  2. WHAT??? A government approved list of names? I had no idea there was such a thing on this earth! Wow, what a bizarre thing to learn.

  3. If memory serves correctly, some other countries have similar rules. I seem to recall that either Norway or Sweden do this as well, and possibly Denmark. Maybe ID707 can shed some light on this.

    Seems draconian to me, and the rebel in me would be tempted to give the government a one finger salute.

  4. It seems that some constrictions on individual right came about after the German occupation…… I see some legitimate government interest….. But….. Naming a child is inherently a parental right….. I think in the US this would fail even under the no brainer Rational Basis test…..

  5. The law seems so ridiculous to us here in The States, particularly for such a normal sounding name as “Blaer” (wonder how it is pronounced there, here I would suspect it the same as Blair)

    OTOH – I know some folks who work in an elementary school and many of the names are atrocious, either silly beyond belief, wild spelling or a combination of both (Oh, and this year 2 kids have names that could be construed as sexual references – lovely parents there).

    The real problem is that there is no good way to legislate against gross stupidity

  6. Iceland was actually occupied by the British and later the Americans during the second world war. But Germany is one nation that has rules governing childrens’ names

  7. I’m aghast Darren,

    Read about operation Fork…. German citizens were occupying Iceland…. While Iceland was claming neutrality…… This was in the 1940s….. Would there have been a need for an invasion of Iceland by the British if it was not being occupied or at least in sympathy with the Germans…..

    There is a good book I suggest you read ….. The Ultra Secret…. F W Winterbotham……

  8. AY:


    I have read about operation Fork. German citizens were in Iceland at the time just prior to Operation Fork, including ambassadors, some civilians, a freighter of German Merchant Mariners, and such, but it by no means an occupying force. Just because some citizens are within a country does not mean that it amounts to control or occupation of the country by ex-pats living there. And yes Iceland did claim neutrality, but so did Denmark before it was invaded by the Nazis.

    Iceland was under Danish rule when Denmark was invaded on April 9, of 1940. Denmark capitualated in one day. The next day the Alþingi (parlaiment in Iceland) divorced themselves from the Danish king and transferred power to themselves locally.

    About a month later the British instigated Operation Fork and the force arrived on the island. The purpose of this was not to expell a currently occupying military force of the Germans, it was to Prevent the German military from setting up bases there later and to also use Iceland as a allied base to help secure the North Atlantic. Occupation was transferred to the Americans in 1941.

    I don’t belive there was any serious sympathy in Iceland for the Germans after they invaded Denmark.

  9. I’m sure Darren that there was no sympathy in France during the official occupation….. But if you will read about the German uboats strong hold on the North Atlantic…. You might understand….. A little more…. But hey…. Some didn’t view the uboat as a threat …. Unless you were the one sunk….maybe my history is off kilter…. But many things go into a successful campaign…..

  10. Germany certainly did not occupy Iceland. Iceland was a territory of Denmark, which the Germans did occupy. Iceland declared it’s neutrality. They were certainly not sympathetic with Germany either.

    The reason for Fork was that Iceland was essentially defenseless. It’s location made it strategically important as an airbase. A German invasion would have threatened the vital trade routes between Britain and North America. When the British couldn’t convince Iceland to join the war as an ally, they decided to invade the island to prevent the Germans from doing the same. 1 year later the British turned the island over to the, (at the time still neutral,) United States. The Germans would then be unable to occupy the island without drawing the US into the war.

    Half a year later the United States entered the war anyway.

  11. There ya go notyer….. They did use it for boat repairs…uboats as well as all other vessels in the kriegsmarine…… As a neutral country they had that right….. You answered without knowing why…..

  12. Ay:
    I see you have the answers ready….. Wiki is your hero….. I see….
    Yes, it is often helpful to have facts to back up one’s statements.

  13. Yes it is Darren…. But first you have to know what relevance it is you’re looking…..


    You have that right….

  14. Being able to decide what you want to be called seems to me to be intimately tied to the basic human right of self determination. The test of whether the name is acceptable or not should be whether or not the child chooses to keep it upon reaching age of majority. Zowie Bowie is now the (incredible) film director Duncan Jones, but even before legally changing his name, he had already been going by a name of his choosing. Dictating acceptable names is not only a violation of this idea, it’s puerile. With it’s recent history, I can understand making an exception for Germany, but Iceland? Really? Grow up. Oh, wait . . . Our very own government took the children of a couple who named their children “Adolf Hitler”, “JoyceLynn Aryan Nation”, “Honszlynn Hinler Jeanne” (allegedly a reference to Heinrich Himmler) and “Hons”. Authorities maintained it was done because of violence, not their Nazi-inspired names despite the fact that no actual violence was proven in court and the parents were cleared of child abuse charges. Which is worse? A list or abuse of process?

    “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.” – Alan Moore

  15. …and the special committee refused to make and exception because takes a masculine article.
    You just got to love Noun Gender.

    So I guess if the name takes the Neuter Gender does it become equivalent to the English “Pat” “Kim” or “Chris” or are neuter gendered names reserved for Castrati?

  16. Those kids in Iceland ought to get off of their icetrays and start protesting. Occupy IceHeads movement. The kids should wear her name on her tee shirt. At school she should sign all her papers with that name. There needs to be a breath of fresh air in that staid old country. Next thing you know they will have pirates working off shore.

  17. Whether or not a name is “ridiculous” is a matter of what we’ve been personally accultured to believe about what a name should be. If we were born in a different culture, we’d have utterly different ideas about what qualified as a “ridiculous” name. There’s nothing more arbitrary than an individual’s judgment of what’s a “good” name and what’s a “horrible” name. And, yes, some countries have for years had lists of “acceptable” names from which parents must choose to give their children legal names. Of course, the very notion sounds foreign to Americans who are used to having the right to name their children whatever they please…then roll their eyes at the “crazy” names their fellow Americans give their kids.

  18. Who knew:


    Courtesy of: Yahoo! Lifestyle UK

    1) Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii (New Zealand)
    New Zealand law bans names which could cause offence to a ‘reasonable’ person. Good thing too – the country is a stupid name hotspot. We found a couple from the islands who tried and failed to call their son ’4Real’, but nothing beats the ridiculous moniker above. It belonged to a 9-year-old girl before a judge had her renamed during a custody battle. ‘It makes a fool of the child,’ he said. It certainly made application forms a pain in the butt.

    Has New Zealand banned any other names? Oh yes. The judge listed some that were also blocked: Fish and Chips (twins), Yeah Detroit, Keenan Got Lucy and Sex Fruit. Number 16 Bus Shelter and Violence were allowed. Make the jump for the rest of these strange names..

    2) Venerdi AKA ‘Friday’ (Italy)
    Maybe this is what the Pope was talking about. Back in 2008 a court banned an Italian couple from calling their child Venerdi (translation: Friday). The judges reckoned the name – taken from ‘Robinson Crusoe’ – would expose the boy to ‘mockery’ and was associated with ‘subservience and insecurity’. The parents, however, might have the last laugh; they threatened to call their next child Mercoledi (Wednesday).

    Has Italy banned any other names? Italian courts can step in ‘when the child’s name is likely to limit social interaction and create insecurity’. In Turin, Andrea was rejected (and changed to Emma) as it’s a boy’s name in Italy. Dalmata has also been rejected, as it means Dalmatian.

    3) Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (Sweden)
    No, we didn’t fall asleep on the keyboard. That is an actual name a Swedish couple tried to inflict on their son back in 1996. Apparently the name is pronounced ‘Albin’ (we’re not sure how), and the parents chose it as a protest against Sweden’s admittedly strict naming laws. Tax authorities must give their blessing to both first and surnames before they can be used.

    Has Sweden banned any other names? Oh yes. Some favourites include Metallica, IKEA, Veranda and Q. Google was OK though.

    4) Gesher AKA ‘Bridge’ (Norway)
    Back in 1998 those nasty Norwegians threw a woman in jail (admittedly for only two days) when she failed to pay a fine for giving her son an ‘unapproved’ name. Eccentric Kristi Larsen said she was instructed in a dream to name her son Gesher (Hebrew for ‘Bridge’), but the court were having none of it. Kristi did have 13 children already though, so maybe she had just run out of ideas.

    Has Norway banned any other names? Undoubtedly, though in recent times they have replaced their list of officially sanctioned names with a general ban on monikers featuring swearing, sex and illnesses.

    5) Chow Tow AKA ‘Smelly Head’ (Malaysia)
    Unlike many countries which are gradually relaxing name laws, Malaysian authorities have cracked down on unsuitable titles in recent years. In 2006 government killjoys published a list of undesirable names that weren’t in keeping with the religious traditions of the country – such as Cantonese moniker Chow Tow – which means ‘Smelly Head’.

    Has Malaysia banned any other names? Lots more Chinese efforts such as Ah Chwar (‘Snake’), Khiow Khoo (‘Hunchback’), Sor Chai (‘Insane’). Malays should also steer clear of Woti, which means ‘Sexual Intercourse’.

    6) @ (China)
    With more than a billion fellow countrymen, finding a unique name in China is difficult. Perhaps that’s why one couple called their baby the ‘@’ symbol – in Chinese characters it apparently looks a bit like ‘love him’. Bless. Unsurprisingly, however, the authorities were less sentimental and publicised the moniker as an example of citizens bringing bizarre names into the Chinese language.

    Has China banned any other names? The police have control over all names given to children because they issue identity cards, but details of rejections are not widely circulated.

    7) Miatt (Germany)
    Country living up to stereotype alert! Surprise, surprise the Germans are somewhat officious when it comes to baby naming laws. Regulation-loving Deutschland has an entire department (the Standesamt) which decides if names are suitable. Miatt was rejected because it didn’t clearly show whether the child was a boy or a girl, but sometimes the decisions are somewhat arbitrary…

    Has Germany banned any other names? The likes of Stompie, Woodstock and Grammophon were turned down, whereas the similarly strange Speedy, Lafayette and Jazz were allowed.

    8) Anus (Denmark)
    What is it about Scandinavian countries and name laws? The Danes are even tougher than the Swedes in this regard, with parents given 7,000-odd names to choose from by the government. Special permission is needed to deviate from the list, with ethnic names, odd spellings and even compound surnames forbidden. Luckily for him (we assume it’s a ‘he’), Anus was one of 250-odd names rejected each year.

    Has Denmark banned any other names? Well, Pluto and Monkey had lucky escapes…

    9) Ovnis (Portugal)
    Before naming your child in Portugal, best consult the mammoth, 80-page government doc (and have it translated to English) that tells you which names you can and can’t use. It’s pretty strict (and random) – Tomás is OK but Tom isn’t – and celebs can forget about the likes of Apple and Brooklyn, which aren’t even on the banned list. Essex girls rejoice, however – Mercedes is allowed!

    Has Portugal banned any other names? There are more than 2,000 names on the reject list, including Ovnis – Portuguese for UFO.

    10) Akuma AKA Devil (Japan)
    Here’s a name the Pope definitely wouldn’t approve of. In 1993 a Japanese parent called his son Akuma (which literally means Devil). The authorities decided this was an abuse of the parent’s rights to decide a child’s name and a lengthy court battle ensued. Eventually the father backed down and junior got a new, less demonic name.

    Has Japan banned any other names? Lots. Names must use one of the 2,232 ‘name kanji’ characters decided by the government. “

  19. Iceland’s “list of names” is predicated on “cultural protection”, to ensure that all “traditional” names survive and not fall into disuse or disappear.

    When was the last time English speaking parents named their son “Murder”? It used to be a valid name, but nobody gives it anymore. And Aloysius isn’t too popular nowadays….

  20. anonymously posted
    >> Who knew:

    Preventing silly names is at least understandable. It’s not done for the same reasons dictatorships (or even democracies) ban names – ethnic and cultural cleansing. Several countries have tried to eliminate both language and the names of a culture.

    In the past:
    * The USSR across its non-Russian republics
    * The Japanese in Korea and China
    * Canada and the US against indigenous people

    And today:
    * The Chinese in Tibet
    * The Turks in Kurdish regions
    * The Romany across Europe

    Among many others. Assimilation and elimination are easier when you deny that a culture even existed and prevent study or discussion of it.

  21. She needs a spokesperson and advocate with international credentials on matters of human rights. I would suggest Tony Blair. Or however he spulls his name. Iceland, Iceland, uber alles.

  22. Next the Icelanders will hire WordPress to censor all of their internet communications. I would like to use my real name in Iceland. On this blog too. Without the piglatin.

  23. One would think that with the advent of global warming the government in that melting pot would welcom a fresh breeze. The polar bears are going to be calling their kids bi polars. In ten years we will be calling the place: Sort of Ice Land. I would hate to be a dog in that country. They would name me Nice Dog or something.

  24. Make fun of their naming restrictions if you will but it’s Iceland that actually prosecuted and sent to jail their banksters.

    When another of my siblings was born, the older children had a say in what the new baby was to be named. We had agreed on Billy for one of my brothers. It took weeks for me to get over the betrayal of my parents naming him William.

    I’ve been looking at my family history. My great-grandparents came from Denmark where all Kirstens born to Lars are called Kirsten Larsdatter; all Mads born to Lars are called Mads Larsen. Considering that Lars is a common name, as are Kirsten and Mads, finding which ones are the ones in a particular family gets kind of tricky.

  25. What an interesting thread! I knew a lot about Iceland and volcanoes; Iceland and banks; but nothing about Iceland, Germany, and WWII.

    That being said, I’m with Bonnie on this one … I had no idea governments were into restrictive child-naming and my initial reaction matched her’s exactly … What??!

  26. “Considering that Lars is a common name, as are Kirsten and Mads, finding which ones are the ones in a particular family gets kind of tricky.”


    The limitations of baby names does tend to create an identity problem in individuality. As a boy growing up I loved the fact that “Michael” was not a common boy’s name. Then that damned Michael Jordan had to come along and ruin it.

  27. P Smith,

    “Among many others. Assimilation and elimination are easier when you deny that a culture even existed and prevent study or discussion of it.”

    Or make it incredibly difficult to study as the English did with both the indigenous Gaelic and Welsh languages. There’s a reason their words often look like gibberish translated in English and their spellings often bear no relation to their pronunciation. In addition to a history of forcing English as a primary language through schooling and government organelles, English academia also purposefully made the indigenous languages hard to study for English speakers to discourage their use.

  28. Well, coming late and fast read leads to not much from here.
    Yahoo seems to be anti-cutural diversification.
    In Sweden there is not list for accepted christian (fornames).
    This is proven in many ways. The wealth of Clarks, Kent, Billies, etc is a start, Whatever is popular for the day. Maybe some priest might protest, but doubt the government would, witness all the foreign ones accompanying our broad cultural immigration. We have em all from Mongolia to Ethiopis (Christian dominates in religion but has 62 languages) to West African countries, including many religious motivated.

    The Lars Larson connumdrum was solve in some part by the “soldier” last name taking, like Svärd=Sword, much better than being called “nr 98 Larson”. Soldier names are sometimes experienced as declassé by some holders. Adopting a last name had the ridiculous requirement that all holders had to accept the new person. Of course that was a protection for the nobles and former ones against copyright infringement.

    My french girl friend experienced ridicule for her non-approved Yvette, as not being a saint name, etc. Proof again that closed cultures die quickly, witness the fate of French cultural influence. Viva la France.
    America exports its culture freely and all may take of it as long as they pay.
    Sometimes in allegiance and tribute.

    As for gender, study a little Latin, it will tax you. But the worst modern example is Finland, where they have seven 7 genders to cope with.
    One reason why Finland like Hungary remains a small language, perhaps.
    Basque; the alpine and medieval relics are other examples.

    Amazing how little we know of each others cultures. And yet money is universal language. Good or bad???

    Now you have learned more than you wish to know, and in fact did not ask for.

    Yes, Blouise, I understood your irony. Wonder if the WW2 warriors and historians got the message.

  29. The Catholic Church has in the past refused to baptize children who didn’t have Saints names and sometimes the parent’s intentions were overruled by a member of the clergy. Didn’t people get their last names “changed” when they entered the country at Ellis Island because the name was not Americanized enough for the immigration workers?

  30. rafflaw:

    Sometimes immigrants’ names were changed because immigration workers were unable to pronounce or spell them. My paternal grandmother arrived at Ellis Island from Ireland as a two-year old named Gertrude Mary Glavin. It morphed into Galvin on the immigration documents.

  31. The worst thing about this story… I’d like to think I am well read and know quite a bit about this or that. I did not know about Germany and Iceland having approved-name lists.

    Oh well, guess I won’t be on Jeopardy any time soon, or even 20 years. No rest for the weary.

  32. wonder what happens if parents come up with an Icelandic name from history, that had already died out BEFORE the government made up its list… the Icelanders have some really… interesting… ideas about the purity of THEIR version of their language.

  33. Names. Any of you use first initial, middle name, last name? You’re going to get anything from “that’s not your legal name” (as if my birth certificate is first name, middle initial, last name), to “you’re attempting to defraud”, or the one not defeatable, “the government requires it”. Nothing anywhere in law says first name, middle initial, last name is your legal name; once government databases were set on FN, MI, and LN, that became the only allowable legal name. It’s a fight everytime.

    I sent a mortgage lender back to revise all his documents because I refused to sign FN, MI, LN. Of course, I was left with FN, MN, and LN, not FI, MN, LN. Something about the government not knowing who I am if not FN, MN, LN, but they would know me if FN, MI, LN. But the rest of society knows me as FI, MN, LN. Even my business cards showed it.

    I’ve been using FI, MN, LM, on all documents from 1969 – 1970, with exception of military but they allowed FN, MN, LN without hassle. I got a clue in the early 90s when the IRS contacted me because they were unable to connect my name to my SSN. They couldn’t tie names to SSN unless they were FN, MI, LN. All my tax statements prior were FI, MN, LN. I still send all documents to the IRS as FI, MN, LN. I did have to write a nasty explanatory letter on how they didn’t understand birth certificates, didn’t know law, and were narrow-minded bureaucratic bigots. They take my money and SS acknowledges it. I’m not sure I won.

  34. Morning-after thoughts on WW2, etc.
    OT but not at all really.

    I can imagine that what gave reason to the provision of a strict list of names in Iceland was the influences of WW2. And oddly it was due to the popularity of the presence of the American troops with “certain” segments of the population, ie the female segment above all.
    I could and would like to explain that phenomena deeper but the facts first.

    The icelanders being similar to all Nordic countries in their free views on premarital and extramarital sex was thus open to contact with “romantic and different” Americans. We all realize the attraction a uniform has on females (men?), and most attractive are foreign uniforms which stick out.
    If they besides come with new culture and small gifts like butter and coffee from the PX, then all the better. As a consequence many liasons were made, many births occurred, and many Clarks and Betties were introduced, shocking the older ones who were raised to defend their culture, particularly from Danish dominance which owned Greenland as a colony and also Iceland.

    Now cultural defenses are seen, both official and unofficial around the world.
    America and Sweden have not been leaders in opening up, but they do, and each in his own way has done it rapidly, Sweden now has a foreign pop. around 10-15 percent, counting all the ones born here.
    And the hispanics in USA, welcome or not, have culínary-wise at least become popular.

    You know, we Americans are always eager to show we each are “special”, being hip, but not too far from the norms, speaking generally. Myself, I had “wheat-colored” jeans in 1952, and went on being different; for ex double hulled catamaran boat instead of a single hulled conventional one.

    Now Germany is a special case. Just think if we had done the same thing during our reconstruction period. Would have had many conflicts with the North’s own naming traditions; and what would we do today without our southern belles with names like Betty Anne, Norma Jean. Double names regarded as always to be used when speaking to and of somenone. Not having and using a doubled first name was regarded as being trashy. Or was it the opposite???

  35. Regulation-loving Deutschland has an entire department (the Standesamt) which decides if names are suitable.

    The Standesamt is simply the public registrar in the local town hall which marriages people and issues certificates of birth and of death and other such things. And while issuing birth certificates they may refuse the name if it’s “harmful to the child.”

    One can argue that this is an area which is actually (contrary to stereotypes) not very well regulated in Germany, because there are no lists (unlike the Scandinavian practice) or even laws, just some fuzzy guidelines laid down in state (and therefore not uniform) administrative decrees.
    That is exactly why there are so many lawsuits fought over it, and why these seems to be no rhyme nor reason behind it (“whereas the similarly strange […] were allowed”)…

    Miatt was rejected because it didn’t clearly show whether the child was a boy or a girl

    That article must be quite old, because the parents of little Kiran won 2008 before the Federal Constitutional Court, which ruled that registrars could not refuse names because they don’t show gender.

  36. Never was good at reading latin. And don’t know what child book it comes from. Not one oj Pippi Longstockings. Long tale, hmmm. Ha, freudian slip. Long TAIL, it should have been.

  37. Malisha,

    That is the same as italiano, capice. Te amo, for example Your words need clarifying to me, like everything else nowadays.

    Besides I had no use for Latin except occasional word roots since studying when I was 13–14 in high school. Between getting suspended at 13 and several times since, my education is spotty.

    There I go self-deprecating and apologizig again. Must stop it, Answer briefly, kindly and pithily. You do that with some exceptions for anger outbursts which seem motivated.

    I’ll don’t have you on a pedestal. You are fine because you ARE
    And that includes all here too.

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