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. bettykath:

    You would probably drive yourself to distraction on

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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??!

  7. 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.

    1. “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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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….

  13. 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. “

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

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