15-year-old Icelandic girl Blaer Bjarkardottir is bringing legal action against the Icelandic government for the right to use her own name. Pictured outside the court house in Reykjavik with her mother Bjork Eidsdottir, Blaer’s case has come about because her name is not on the list of 1,853 government-approved female names. According to Icelandic law, names have to comply with Icelandic grammar and orthography, hence the Personal Names Register – there are 1712 approved names for males.
Her mother Bjork, who chose the name which means ‘light breeze’ in Icelandic, is supporting her daughter’s right to use her name. Bjork said she was not aware that the name was not on the approved list when she decided to give it to her daughter.
Anyone wishing to give their child a name that does not appear on the list has to apply to special committee that has the power to approve or disapprove of the name. Officials believe that the Personal Names Register protects children from the embarrassment of being called obscure or wacky names. However, from an outsider’s point of view, it does seem unreasonably strict!
Blaer’s mother claims she first realized that the name she had chosen wasn’t on the Personal Names Register when the priest who baptized the child informed her that he had mistakenly allowed it.
However, Bjork claims to have known a Blaer whose name was accepted in 1973. The committee disapproved Bjork’s appeal to use the name Blaer, arguing that it takes a masculine article regardless of the fact that it was used for a female character in a novel by Iceland’s Nobel Prize-winning author Halldor Laxness.
As things stand, Blaer is referred to a “Stulka” (which translates to “girl”) on all of her official documents. As you can imagine, Blaer finds this incredibly frustrating especially when dealing with the bank, bureaucracy or trying to renew her passport and the like!
Blaer and her mother are hoping that the court will support their desire to keep the name, though it will be the first time that anyone has challenged a names committee decision in court!
In recent years, the names law has become slightly more relaxed than it used to be. For example the name Elvis is now permitted because the rock’n’roll icon’s name fits Icelandic guidelines. However it’s not all that relaxed as names like Cara or Carolina have been rejected outright because the 32-letter alphabet does not contain the letter “c”. The panel regularly vetoes people who want to change their names as adults too!
“So many strange names have been allowed, which makes this even more frustrating because Blaer is a perfectly Icelandic name…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.”
Source: Associated Press