Shakespeare wrote, “A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.” Not in Iceland, apparently, or a handful of other countries who control what you can name your child. According to Yahoo News on Jan. 3, a 15-year-old girl in Iceland is suing to be allowed to use her own name, the name her mother gave her.
Blaer Eidsdottir, 15, is suing the Icelandic state for the right to legally use the name she was baptized with. So what’s wrong with Blaer? Well, for one, it’s not on an “approved” government list that has 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names. If you don’t take a name from the list, you have to apply to a special committee.
What makes a name an “approved name”? The names on the official list fit with Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules. The government also feels that these approved names will protect children from embarrassment.
Blaer, which means “light breeze” in Icelandic, isn’t on the list. Why? It takes a masculine article. Remember those grammar rules? Mom Bjork Eidsdottir didn’t realize it until the priest who baptized Blaer told her he made a mistake in allowing her to use the name.
Another reason Iceland puts such significance on names is that everyone is listed in the phone book by their first name. Surnames are based on a parent’s given name. The Icelandic president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, is addressed as “Olafur.”
So if Blaer isn’t really Blaer, who is she on official documents? She’s referred to as simply “Stulka” which means girl.
How is the government approaching this?
"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 committee, a panel of three people appointed by the government to a four-year term.
Other cases are more subjective.
"What one person finds beautiful, another person may find ugly," she acknowledged. She pointed to "Satania" as one unacceptable case because it was deemed too close to "Satan."
Blaer’s mom is prepared to go all the way to the Icelandic Supreme Court if necessary. The committee hearing is scheduled for Jan. 25.
"So many strange names have been allowed, which makes this even more frustrating because Blaer is a perfectly Icelandic name," Bjork Eidsdottir said. "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," she added.