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 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. …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?

  2. David,

    😀 What? We’re all meek as church mice here.

    I almost said that with a straight face.

  3. 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

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


    You have that right….

  5. 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.

  6. 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…..

  7. why all the chest thumping about names? Government usurps more than just our liberty to name a child.

  8. 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.

  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. 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.

  11. 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……

  12. 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

  13. 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

  14. 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…..

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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?


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