What’s in a name? Quite a lot, if you live in Iceland
Recent decades have ushered in an era of creative baby names – at least in Hollywood. But not every country embraces such unique labels. In the first case of its kind, a 15-year-old girl in Iceland is suing the state for the right to use her name.
Blaer Bjarkardottir’s first name is not on the official list of approved names issued by the Icelandic government, causing her to be identified simply as “Stulka” – or “girl” on all her official documents.
The state’s refusal to accept the teenager’s name has led to years of frustration, as she is constantly forced to explain the story when filling out forms or dealing with the country’s bureaucratic system.
Iceland is one of several nations, including Germany and Denmark, which has rules regarding what a baby can be called.
The country’s “Personal Names Register” contains a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules and that officials say will protect children from embarrassment.
Parents can apply to a special committee for names which are not on the list. Blaer’s family did just that, but the name was rejected because it takes on a masculine article. Undeterred, Blaer filed a lawsuit against the state. The decision is expected January 25.
Blaer’s mother says she learned the name wasn’t on the register after the priest who baptized her daughter later informed her that he had mistakenly allowed it.
"I had no idea that the name wasn't on the list, the famous list of names that you can choose from," Bjork Eidsdottir told AP.
Eidsdottir hopes her daughter will win the lawsuit – the very first of its kind.
"So many strange names have been allowed, which makes this even more frustrating because Blaer is a perfectly Icelandic name," she told AP. "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.”
However, history suggests that Blaer may have an uphill battle ahead of her. In the past, the name “Carolina” was rejected because the letter “c” is not part of Icleand’s 32-letter alphabet and “Satania” was shot down because it was deemed too close to “Satan.”"The law is pretty straightforward so in many cases it's clearly going to be a yes or a no," said Agusta Thorbergsdottir, the head of the government committee which will hear the case.
But the determined teen says she’s prepared to take the case all the way to the country’s Supreme Court if the court doesn’t overturn the decision.
Given names hold extreme importance in Iceland. Surnames are based on a parent’s given name and everyone in the phone book is listed by their first name.