Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

Sick of modern kids’ names?

childcare_walking_line_1600_wht_5665If like me you despair at some of the children’s names you hear at school or in the supermarket – not just the celebrity wannabe names but the made-up or hyphenated ones – then go to Iceland.

That’s the country, not Kerry Katona’s former employer. The land of fire and ice. Think hot water geysers, pure drinking water, the Blue Lagoon, Bjork, and volcanoes.

In Iceland most of the 270,000 population don’t have a family name. Children have a given name followed by their father’s name with sson or dottir added to it. So Thor has a son called Jon Thorsson and if he has a daughter Frida she’s called Frida Thorsdottir (daughter of Thor).

Simple? It means phone books list people by their first name and because there are no surnames as such they don’t use Mr or Mrs and just call people by their first names. And that’s where it gets interesting.

First names that have not been previously used in Iceland must be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee before being used. The criterion for acceptance of names is whether or not they can be easily incorporated into the Icelandic language. First, they must contain only letters found in the Icelandic alphabet and second, they must fit the rules of grammar for the Icelandic language.

So the case recently reported in The Times about the “girl with no name” came about because the parents called her Blaer (which means light breeze in Icelandic) and this name wasn’t in the list of 1,853 approved girls’ names (boys have 1,712 to choose from).

The priest who baptised the baby made a mistake not realising that Blaer is a boy’s name and only takes the masculine article in grammar.  Her parents appealed to the naming panel but lost so the child has been referred to in official records and at school simply as Stuka (the girl).

The rules also mean you can’t have names beginning with C, Q, W, or Z, as these letters aren’t in the Icelandic alphabet. Perhaps surprisingly Elvis was allowed on appeal  because it fitted the language guidelines. Blaer’s mother Bjork Eidsdottir has taken the case to Iceland’s main court which will decide by the end of this month. If she loses there she says she is prepared to go to the European Court of Human Rights.

We might have gone to war with Iceland over cod and their investment banks but I’m with them on this!

Update 1 February 2013: Reykjavik’s District Court has overturned earlier decision and allowed her to use that name. It’s not known if government will appeal.