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Icelandic teenager sues her country for the right to be called by her name

Lia Grainger
Shine On
January 4, 2013

At a time when parents are naming their children Google, Hashtag and Like, it seems odd that a girl named Blaer is being forced to fight for the name her mother gave her.

Nevertheless, Icelandic teenager Blaer Eidsdottir has been drawn into a legal battle with government of Iceland, because the name her mother chose for her is not allowed in that country.

Iceland has surprisingly strict rules about what a baby can be named. There is a Personal Names Register that contains only 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names. The purpose of the list, officials maintain, is to make sure that all names fit Icelandic pronounciation and grammar rules, and also to protect children from potential embarrassment.

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“There are infinite ways a parent can embarrass a child, the least of which is their name,” says Candace Alper, baby naming expert and creator a kids' music site Name Your Tune . “We have a catalogue of more than 5000 names, and if we had regulations like this, half of those names would be wiped out immediately.”

But in Canada and the United States, we don’t have those kind of regulations, which is why Beyonce named her first born Blue Ivy and there are babies out there named Popeye, Espn and Burger.

Not so in Iceland, where anything that is not on the official list must be approved by a special committee — and Blaer did not make the cut.

The girl’s mother, Bjork Eidsdottir, says she was surprised when the name was refused, because she knew a Blaer whose name was accepted in 1973, and it is also the name of a female character in a book by Nobel Prize-winning Icelandic author Halldor Laxness. The panel nonetheless refused Eidsdottir’s name on the grounds that Blaer takes a masculine article.

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But instead of her mother caving and picking something on the list, young Blaer is suing her country for the right to keep her name. In the meantime, on official documents she’s referred to simply as “Stulka”, which means “girl” in Icelandic.

“Being officially nameless can be very detrimental to any individual since a name represents our identity in so many ways,” says naming expert Maryanna Korwitts of Thenamingexperience.com.

She points out that in Iceland, the first name has even more impact than the surname, “so this young girl has all the more reason to find a way to rightfully claim her given name.”

Alper agrees that young Blaer is in the right to fight for her name, but that the effects of the battle may be lasting.

“She’ll forever be known as the girl who had to fight for her name,” says Alper.

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