Sometimes as an American I get some pretty shocking reminders of the freedoms I often take for granted on a daily basis. The story of Icelandic teenager Blaer Bjarkardottir and her current fight is one of those instances.
Blaer is 15 and currently suing the Icelandic state for the right to use the name bestowed upon her by her mother. So is her name something way out there like Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop, Jermajesty, or Moxie Crimefighter? Nope. Then I know what it is. Her name is some sort of Icelandic obscenity! No? Well what does Blaer mean in Icelandic?
It means “light breeze.” Wait… What!?!
It turns out that Iceland has a registry of names that are pre-approved by the government from which a parent must pick and choose. If they dare to name their child anything different, they have to go through an approval process via a special committee.
First names hold greater weight in relatively tiny Iceland as everyone is listed by their first name in the phone book. Surnames are simply a parent’s given name. Heck, they even call the president by his first name.
The panel denied the name Blaer because, the committee stated, it takes a masculine article. Ironically, the female character in a novel by Iceland’s Nobel Prize-winning author Halldor Laxness is named Blaer.
Blaer’s mom, who learned of her daughter’s frowned-upon name after her baptism (because of this, Blaer has simply been identified as “girl” officially), said:
“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.”
She added that her daughter loves her own name.
If you think this law only exists to protect children from parents with bad taste, you would be wrong. Even adults who wish to have their name changed have to be “approved.”
Nations like Germany and Denmark also have similar rules.