By now you have probably read, heard or seen the story that has been circulating this week about the 15 year old girl in Iceland whose name has been deemed illegal. Blaer, a 15 year-old girl whose name translates into “a light wind” in Icelandic, has been told that she will have to change her name as her name was incorrectly registered when she was born and is not on the national register of acceptable names. While the story seems absurd on the surface, there is some context that has to do with the nature of the Icelandic language and how personal information is recorded and tracked that goes into the telling of the story.
What interested me was the actual legal particulars about the story which I was able to track down because Iceland is considerate enough to provide easily accessible English translations to much of the legal content. Firstly, the law in question: The Personal Names Act which establishes that a Personal Names Register and how it shall be applied. The law in question is applied by the Ministry of the Interior, whom, I assume would also be responsible for the following information on naming a baby.
The “How To” guide for naming a baby in Iceland, includes a quick summary of the rules:
Rules for names
Rules for Icelandic personal names provide that names must:
be able to have a genetive ending or have been adopted through custom in the Icelandic language, must be adaptable to the structure of the Icelandic language and spelling conventions and does not cause the bearer embarrassment. Girls should be given a female name and boys should be given male names. No person can have more than three personal names.
The following is from the department of Registers Iceland (the national registry), which does not contain the actual approved list of names but does provide some statistical information about names in Iceland and the most popular names of the past year (for male: Jón and female: Guðrún).
I want to be clear I am not making any commentary on this issue because, as I said above, there is some context to the story but more significantly I greatly appreciate that Iceland makes all this material easily accessible in English. However, if I had to make a bet, my money would be on the light wind continuing to blow and Blaer will be able to retain her name.