What’s in a name?

islandia-grunge-bandera_19-134193To be able to use your own name is a right we take for granted. We’ve all heard stories of parents naming their children crazy names, like the Egyptian dad who named his daughter Facebook,  and the Israeli couple who also took inspiration from the social network, naming their daughter Like. Some countries, however, have guidelines regarding name choices. Some even have a list of approved names that you must choose from to name your offspring. One of those countries is Iceland.

Blaer Bjarkardottir is a 15 year old Icelandic girl who is referred to on her passport, school registration and bank details as Stulka (girl). She is currently suing the Icelandic government for the right to use her own name; as “Blaer,” which means light breeze in Icelandic, is not one of the 1,853 Government approved girls names. If parents would like to use a name which isn’t on the registry, they must apply to have it approved by a special committee. Blaer was not approved as it takes a masculine article.

In Iceland, a first name has importance because what we would refer to as the surname is not actually a surname, it refers to the parents. The name is made up of two parts. In Blaer Bjarkardottir’s case, Bjarkar refers to Blaer’s father, and dottir means daughter. Therefore, if she was a boy, her name would be Blaer Bjarkarson.

If the courts fail to overturn the decision of the committee in a hearing on January 25th, Blaer and her mother are willing to take the case to the Icelandic Supreme Court. They are the first people to sue the Icelandic Government over a name.

In Germany, you must be able to tell the child’s gender from it’s given name; this is also true of Denmark. Denmark also has a list of only 7000 names to choose from. In China, names which use characters that cannot be typed on a keyboard are banned. There are over 70,000 Chinese characters, yet only 13,000 can be represented on a computer. As a result, some people have had to change their names so that they can use their ID cards!

New Zealand doesn’t allow people to name their children anything that “might cause offence to a reasonable person” yet allowed one set of parents to name their child Number 16 Bus Shelter. Adolf Hitler and Fish and Chips were deemed unsuitable, though!

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