Why an Icelandic Girl Named ‘Light Breeze’ Isn’t Legally Allowed to Use Her Own Name

Blaer Bjarkardottir is known officially as “Stulka” – meaning “girl” in Icelandic – because her given name, which translates to “light breeze,” is not on the government’s approved list of 1,853 female names.

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AP Photo/Anna Andersen

Blaer Bjarkardottir, 15, left, and her mother, Bjork Eidsdottir

Blaer Bjarkardottir, a 15-year-old Icelandic teen, isn’t allowed to go by her given name in her home country. She’s known officially as “Stulka” – meaning “girl” in Icelandic – because her given name, which translates to “light breeze,” is not on the government’s approved list of 1,853 female names.

Blaer and her mother, Bjork Eidsdottir, are now suing the state for the right to use her given name. Iceland has strict rules about what you can name a person. Speaking with the Associated Press, Bjork explained that she “had no idea that the name wasn’t on…the famous list of names that you can choose from.”

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The country’s personal names register contains some 3,500 approved male and female names. As Icelandic last names follow a patronymic system (son of or daughter of the father’s name), people are known by their forename.

Under (a rather exhaustive) Icelandic law, a child must be given a name within six months of its birth. If parents wish to choose a name that is not already on the names register, they may fill out an application and pay 3,000 ISK ($23) to have the proposed name evaluated by the Icelandic naming committee. This committee determines whether the proposed name is in fitting with Icelandic language, gender and cultural conventions, as well as to make sure that it does not cause embarrassment — perhaps a prerequisite some parents should have taken into consideration before naming their child Ljótur (“ugly”).

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Agusta Thorbergsdottir, the head of the naming committee, explained in an interview with the Reykjavik Grapevine, that their work is not about “personal taste” but instead finding compliance with the law. No other government body can overturn the committee’s ruling, but Blaer and her mother say they are prepared to take them all the way to the Supreme Court if a lower court does not overturn the committee’s decision by January 25.

“So many strange names have been allowed,” said Blaer’s mother to the AP, perhaps referring to the permission of names like “Elvis,” which both speaks to the prevalence of rock music and fits Icelandic conventions. It’s “even more frustrating because Blaer is a perfectly Icelandic name,” she said. Nonetheless, the panel rejected Blaer’s name on the grounds that it takes a masculine article, forcing her to be identified simply as “girl” on her official documents. While Icelandic naming conventions may seem unusual, there are many other European countries, including Germany and Denmark, that enact similar rules for name-giving so that monikers adhere to linguistic rules and won’t lead to embarrassment.

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But the laws over child-naming have relaxed in recent years. Up until 1995, foreigners who obtain Icelandic citizenship were required to take on an Icelandic name and any children they had under 15 years were forced to forego their given name in place of an Icelandic name. This law has now been reversed, though all children born in Iceland are still required to have one Icelandic forename.

31 comments
ChervisualNations
ChervisualNations

Some parents has no sense of name to create a child to be target like. NORTH WEST. It is completely outrageous name. Need wisdom name or new unusual with unique meanings without. Stupid words Like. Daughter age 15 in the picture : Nice name

didjesbydan
didjesbydan

Wow!  I had no idea countries like this were so repressive in this way.  To force gender binary on people like this...

HeywoodJablow
HeywoodJablow

Who the hell cares what any "Government" thinks

einar
einar

Here is some corrections to some incorrect and/or misleading statements in this article.

The name Ljótur does not mean ugly. The word ljótur meaning ugly is a new development historically and start taking that meaning in the 20th century. However the name Ljótur means bright ore light and has the same origin as the english word "Light".  

Names can be selected if they can convey with icelandic gramar rules, Elvis does so that is way it is allowed. The 
decision can be found here (in icelandic, not sure how well google translate handles it) http://www.urskurdir.is/DomsOgKirkjumala/Mannanafnanefnd/2011/02/07/nr/3644

Historically the name Blær has only been used as a middle name and not a give name and only been allowed as the given name for boys and that is why it was rejected. 

Head of the naming committee says that no other governmental body can overturn it, I'm not sure that is correct sins it self belongs to the Ministry of the Interior. And occurs can be overruled by courts.

That being said I think the committee has become a thing of the past, when it seemed more important to protect the language at any cost from foreign influence,  and it wound belong until it will be abolished ore its rules minimised.

Interitus
Interitus

But by some of this logic if we didn't allow for "silly names" we would still have Ethel, Bertha, Ernest. You get the idea. Now there is nothing wrong with those names, they simply fell out of style. But if we didn't let people use names that were at the time silly or "wrong" in some way we would still be using those names instead of the wide variety of names (admittedly some are misses) that we see today.

jkeyes
jkeyes

Wait, why are they suing 15 years after they gave her the name? Did they only just find out that her name isn't on the list?

GavrielaRivkaBatAvraham
GavrielaRivkaBatAvraham

1. It's one thing to be concerned about a name that doesn't fit gender normative convention. It's another thing to be concerned about naming your kid "Hitler" because you're a white supremacist, because being raised by someone like that usually goes hand in hand with very severe forms of child abuse. 2. Breaking away from gender norms in a society is NOT child abuse, and if you think otherwise, you're nothing more than sexist and homophobic. Cultures evolve. In Israel and Jewish communities in other parts of the world, the male name "Simcha" has become gender-neutral over just the past 20 years. No big deal. It has not ripped apart the Jewish community, trust me. And speaking as an American, there are a TON of "male" names that have become gender-neutral or become "female" names, like Beverly, Stacy, and Kim. GET OVER IT. (Getting over being called "Girl" however because of a totally mind-bogglingly flawed logic of a law... now that is not so easily "gotten over". THAT is child abuse.)

swagv
swagv

Old news. This is why you end up with Vietnamese immigrants with names like "Hoa Truc Gudmunsson". This has been going on for decades. Why is this news now?

Odtaa
Odtaa

A Rose...is a Rose...Would a Rose of any other name smell less sweet?(Probably misquoated...sorry!(See Shakespere)

Brett L. Doyle
Brett L. Doyle

@palmi...my name is androgenous and Celtic! Thats living in the USA!

Jim Rasmussen
Jim Rasmussen

So, if the list is to prevent a kid from being given an embarrassing name, how is this any better?

KodiacCutler
KodiacCutler

good idea?? names are who you are! your persona, your face, your soul. what on Earth is next? Controll is going to far. How much longer until we must go through a check point to make sure we wiped our ass the right way??? How much longer until they tell you that you can't buy your own groceries and the Gov. on;y gives us one week rations to supply the whole month. How much longer until they shut your brain down to sleep with microchips, if your awake past 9:00?? These Governments are crossing way to many lines. And there all supported by blinded followers. "blind" - unable to see outside the box for what's really going on.

Lori Hensley
Lori Hensley

i would like to see my profile pic go viral it tells a million stories. it is beautiful i cant stop looking at it. It is an Amazing piece of art, it needs shared with the world! Thank you :D

Tammy Belka
Tammy Belka

They called the list of names "famous" but claim they never checked it?

FrancisCagney
FrancisCagney

Its a good idea to control names. Some parents can choose really stupid names that stroke their own egos but make their children a bullying target.

Angela Botha
Angela Botha

Understandably;who wants to be called Blaer

Oldaircosta Costa
Oldaircosta Costa

REVISTA SUSTENTABILIDADE de São Paulo Brasil Músico mineiro mostra como fazer capas de CDs de embalagens descartadas por Alexandre Spatuzza — Reciclag Em tempos de concorrência em todos os campos, não basta ter talento, é necessário se reinventar. E foi isso que o músico mineiro Oldair Costa, de Poté, Minas Gerais, fez ao aliar seus conhecimentos de artes com ações positivas para com o meio ambiente. As capas dos seus CDs, todas criadas à mão pelo próprio artista, são f...eitas com materiais reaproveitados. Por isso, cada uma delas é única. O papelão, ele recolhe nas ruas. O cartão de visitas de Costa também é ecologicamente correto: cada um deles traz três sementes de pau Brasil. O músico independente - ou dependente de patrocínio, como ele mesmo diz - comercializa seus CDs por meio do seu site. Lá também há um vídeo onde ele mostra suas técnicas plásticas. Vale a pena conferir. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tMCalLnjAY

suchismita_p
suchismita_p

When Shakespeare  said 'What's in a name?' he probably had forgotten about Iceland!

dlonra7105
dlonra7105

Government control of names you are allowed to give your child.....is anyone else disturbed by this?

mscarborough
mscarborough

Well at least they don't require everyone to have blond hair and blue eyes.

einar
einar

@jkeyes No, they have been trying to get the name approved ever since she was born. Her name an all official  paper was before the courts ruling "Stúlka" meaning "Girl".

PuritaFleschhut
PuritaFleschhut

@Odtaa  -  If I may say so, this how the Bard says it - "a rose by any other name still smell as sweet". I'm afraid the Icelandic gov't still has a lot to learn from Shakespeare.

einar
einar

@Tammy BelkaThey file in the requested name and if its on the list its approved immediately otherwise the committee has to approve it and add it to the list. In their case it was not approved.

didjesbydan
didjesbydan

@FrancisCagney So yes, control is the answer.  Right on.  Gotta love the kneejerk reflex of some people who, when confronted with something distasteful, say "they should have a law for that."  Such a disgusting and dangerous mentality.

einar
einar

@Palmi Snaer Brynjulfsson but it works as a girls name, and has been used as a middle name for girls before.

einar
einar

@dlonra7105 Dismissal of names are uncommon and we have courts like any other nation to overturn any unjustafiable ruling by the committee. The government should have had similar regulation on the banks, its harder to have a naming recession than financial one :)