January 4, 2013

"In a country comfortable with a firm state role, most people don't question the Personal Names Register, a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names..."

"... that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules and that officials maintain will protect children from embarrassment. Parents can take from the list or apply to a special committee that has the power to say yea or nay."
In Blaer's case, her mother said she learned the name wasn't on the register only after the priest who baptized the child later informed her he had mistakenly allowed it.

"I had no idea that the name wasn't on the list, the famous list of names that you can choose from," said Bjork Eidsdottir, adding she knew a Blaer whose name was accepted in 1973. This time, the panel turned it down on the grounds that the word Blaer [which means "light breeze" in Icelandic] takes a masculine article, despite the fact that it was used for a female character in a novel by Iceland's revered Nobel Prize-winning author Halldor Laxness.
Parents express themselves through their naming of children. There are many things parents do to children that are expressive. To some extent, we intercede on behalf of the children. Where would you draw the line? In this case, the child is now 15, and she says she loves her name.

48 comments:

campy said...

Remember, government is the only thing we all belong to.

sparrow said...

You don't intercede unless the name is so extreme as to constitute abuse, which is exceedingly rare. Granted that's not a clearly indicated line, but it does set the bar high. To give an example there's Ima Hogg from Texas.

Shouting Thomas said...

God bless them, blacks in the U.S. could use some assistance in the baby naming department.

Far too many of them are sticking some awful ghetto moniker on their kids and, probably, ensuring that the poor kid never escapes from the hood in the process.

Pogo said...

Iceland is more culturally protective than France. For example, until the last few years, immigrants to Iceland were required to change their names to Icelandic ones.

The MN poet Bill Holm wrote how in Icelandic, new concepts and imports were not described using modified forms of foreign words.

"The Icelandic Language
In this language, no industrial revolution;
no pasteurized milk; no oxygen, no telephone;
only sheep, fish, horses, water falling.
The middle class can hardly speak it.

In this language, no flush toilet; you stumble
through dark and rain with a handful of rags.
The door groans; the old smell comes
up from under the earth to meet you.

But this language believes in ghosts;
chairs rock by themselves under the lamp; horses
neigh inside an empty gully, nothing
at the bottom but moonlight and black rocks.

The woman with marble hands whispers
this language to you in your sleep; faces
come to the window and sing rhymes; old ladies
wind long hair, hum, tat, fold jam inside pancakes.

In this language, you can't chit-chat
holding a highball in your hand, can't
even be polite. Once the sentence starts its course,
all your grief and failure come clear at last.

Old inflections move from case to case,
gender to gender, softening consonants, darkening
vowels, till they sound like the sea moving
icebergs back and forth in its mouth
"

Pogo said...

Jónny Cash singing A Boy named Sigríður just doesn't feel right.

Clyde said...

If you give a child a very odd name, it increases the likelihood of the child becoming a criminal/psycho killer down the line. Or in the case of Chastity Bono, a lesbian transsexual named Chaz.

Clyde said...

@ Pogo

True. But Icelandic is kind of like a game preserve for Old Norse. The Swedes and Danes and Norwegians have changed their language, but the Icelanders can still read the old Eddas in the original.

ErnieG said...

There are limits. Back when I was in the Army in the early 60s, I met an older officer who was born in the 30s. His name was Benito M. Linguine (not his real last name but you get the idea). Nobody asked him what the M stood for.

ErnieG said...

@Clyde

You have to be careful about using Wayne as the middle name.

rhhardin said...

Das Fräulein, the girl, neuter article.

gerry said...

Woof.

...and my sister Alopecia. She's the bald one. And my darling niece, Klamidia.

There's the famous gangsta philosopher, Polly Uria.

I could go on.

rehajm said...

Let's ask Moon Unit Zappa about the government approved names list...

SGT Ted said...

people who name their kids "Bjork" have no business polcing names.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Hmmm. Blær apparently is on the approved list, but as a boy's name (karlmannsnafn).

Larry J said...

ErnieG said...
There are limits. Back when I was in the Army in the early 60s, I met an older officer who was born in the 30s. His name was Benito M. Linguine (not his real last name but you get the idea). Nobody asked him what the M stood for.


I read in a history book about Americans named Adolf or Hitler changing their names during WWII. One grizzeled Army Master Sergeant named Adolf Hitler said, when asked if he was going to change his name, "Let the other fellow change his."

Humperdink said...

I am couldn't find D'Brickashaw (D'Brickashaw Ferguson, offensive lineman NY Jets) on the approved list.

My all time favorite NFL name.

Humperdink said...

I am couldn't find D'Brickashaw (D'Brickashaw Ferguson, offensive lineman NY Jets) on the approved list.

My all time favorite NFL name.

pduggie said...

Cultures and ethnic nations express themselves by limiting the kinds of expressions their members may viably make.

sabeth.chu said...

that reminds me of that confederate officer who was named states rights gist.
didn't help him, though. he fell at franklin.

edutcher said...

The famous Hogg family of Texas named one of their daughters Ima.

We'll stop people from naming their kid Adolf Hitler, but not from naming it Chaniqua or LeShaundra.

bardseyeview said...

Our boys are named Isaiah and Jonah. We considered Ellington, Thelonius, Quattrocci (the Italian man who before being beheaded by Al Qaida said, "I will show you how an Italian dies,") and, for a girl, Oriana, for Oriana Fallaci.

I like having a lot of choice. The idea of having this choice limited feels like having the state step in and inseminate my wife for me.

Texan99 said...

I haven't much patience with precious, "expressive," or pretentious names for babies, but I'll be damned if I'd live in a country whose government had the effrontery to interfere in the process.

Balfegor said...

This is all just about legal names, though. There's no particular reason one's real name -- the name by which one is known to friends and family -- has to be identical to one's legal name. At New Years, I saw one relation struggle to remember what my legal name was (she guessed wrong). It's like a social security number. Yes, a legal name is an identifier for you. But really, it's just an administrative convenience, nothing more.

FleetUSA said...

Lately I've been thinking about names and most especially how when the waves of immigrants arrived from Europe many changed their names to something simpler. This allowed the melting pot to work.

Today some parents give inventive names to their children and even reinvent spellings (or just plain misspell their intended names). This handicaps kids in ways the parents just can't imagine. It is a handicap in jobs of all sorts from teenage years throughout their careers. Managers will either avoid calling an employee they can't pronounce or they'll invent simpler names.

Let's go back to the Ellis Island formulas. It has worked for many decades.

sabeth.chu said...

also, there are a lot of hungarians named attila.
he is a hero there.
would iceland allow the name attila?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

I have a (male) friend named Durwynne. His (Chinese) parents found "Derwin" in a book of baby names and liked it, but thought it seemed too short, so they, um, modified it.

Levi Starks said...

I checked the list and was pleasantly surprised to find out my name made the cut. But I have no idea what they funny little mark above the "i" is.

It would require a greater investment of time than I'm willing to give up, but i'm curious to know if there are in fact any names that appear on both the male and female list's.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Funny thing. I used to know a girl named Rose but then she changed it to Juliet and then she didn't smell as sweet.

gutless said...

Of the NFL monikers my favorite is Terdell Sands. Now there's a name!

Mitchell the Bat said...

I have a brother-in-law who swears he was doing a residency in rural Virginia and he had to explain to a maternity patient why she couldn't name her daughter Clitoris.

Elle said...

My legal name is an extremely common name with an unusual spelling thanks to my creative parents.

On behalf of the rest of the poor souls, stop it.

ErnieG said...

Consider the mangling of the simple French name, Antoine. It becomes Antwan, Antwaan, An'Twan, Antwon, AntJuan, and God knows what else.

ErnieG said...

Mitchell the Bat said...

"I have a brother-in-law who swears he was doing a residency in rural Virginia and he had to explain to a maternity patient why she couldn't name her daughter Clitoris."

I have heard stories of residents doing the opposite and kids winding up with names like Nosmo King and Positive Wassermann Jones.

Geoff Matthews said...

In Freakanomics, there's a section on names, and a story about a man who named his last two sons Winner and Loser (Lane).
Winner turned out to be a career criminal, while Loser became a police detective.
They also found evidence of kids being named Orangello and Lemongello.

Amartel said...

This is creepy - state-sanctioned naming. Obviously there is always the possibility of parental naming abuse, like any other kind of parental abuse. But a person can always change the name legally, and refuse to answer to the stupid parent name even before majority. Honey Boo Boo doesn't seem to mind. Also, as a general rule I don't mind black naming, not all of it but the creativity of the uniquely "black" names like all the royalty names (Leroy, Reginald, Prince, Queen etc.) and mangling or complete invention of African and French names.

Balfegor said...

Re: Amartel:

Reginald is a perfectly normal name appropriate for all races. It is not creative or uniquely "Black" at all.

Ambrose said...

Ambrose is a name that has been in my family for several generations. Family legend has it that one of my forebears was given the name ad hoc by the Catholic priest at Baptism - because he disapproved of the pre-selected name that also began with "A" but was not a name of a Catholic saint.

Kirk Parker said...

A friend of mine taught in an inner-city middle school for a while. The first day of class he's reading down the class list, checking off everyone who's present. At the end there's still one name unchecked, Lamonne. He calls it out several times. No one answers.

But the number of kids in his class matches the class list, so he asks, "Is there anyone whose name I didn't call?" One kid raises his hand.

"What's your name?"

"Lamont."

"Lamont?"

"Yeah, L - A - M - O - N - N - E... LamonT!" [This last time with a greatly-emphasized, very-aspirated T.]

Alrighty, then.

wyo sis said...

My favorite of the kids I know personally is Eyezak...Isaac. At least it isn't Eyesack.

Amartel said...

Just anecdotal on my part but there does seem like there is an overabundance of Reginalds who are black and a unmistakeable trend toward royalty names in African America.

Þægð said...

sabeth.chu said...
also, there are a lot of hungarians named attila.
he is a hero there.
would iceland allow the name attila?


Atilla = Atli, as found in the Sagas
Don't believe Wikipedia, where it is not listed.

There are 766 in the phone book


Levi Starks said...
I checked the list and was pleasantly surprised to find out my name made the cut. But I have no idea what they funny little mark above the "i" is.

The acute accent lengthens or diphthongs the vowel, and is treated as a different letter from the unaccented version. That's why they claim 32 letters.

It would require a greater investment of time than I'm willing to give up, but i'm curious to know if there are in fact any names that appear on both the male and female list's.

Many, but they are declined for gender, which is the likeliest problem here.
Iceland is fiercely feminist, but knows the difference between sex and gender.

Balfegor said...

Re: Kirk Parker:

"Yeah, L - A - M - O - N - N - E... LamonT!" [This last time with a greatly-emphasized, very-aspirated T.]

Alrighty, then
.

Eh, no worse than Menzies => Mingus.

VekTor said...

So we have a rigid set of rules to be followed by the Icelandic. Approved names for girls, and approved names for boys. Parents have a responsibility to exercise care, and be observant of the rules. They must be vigilant and heedful to ensure their children are not embarrassed.

And we have a revered author who uses a boy's name for a girl, and others start to do the same.

How could such a turn of events come to pass?

Laxness, obviously.

They should have seen it coming a mile away.

VekTor said...

Today some parents give inventive names to their children and even reinvent spellings (or just plain misspell their intended names). This handicaps kids in ways the parents just can't imagine. It is a handicap in jobs of all sorts from teenage years throughout their careers. Managers will either avoid calling an employee they can't pronounce or they'll invent simpler names.

A few years back, my sister informed me that they'd come up with the name for their new child.

"Oh really? What is it?"

"Cayenne", I heard her say.

Puzzled, I said, "Like the pepper? Why?"

"No, No", she insisted, "the color, silly. C - Y - A - N. Cayenne."

(Remember, you don't get to choose to whom you're related.)

AlanKH said...

I guess "Quishondra" is out of the question.

Jose_K said...

Have you heard about the por swedish girl named Talula Likes The Hula or the american boy called Hitler

Jose_K said...

would iceland allow the name attila? Have you read the Heimlskringla? their heroes are worse than Attila

sabeth.chu said...

why yes - i take back any possfible slur on attila.
and there were some erics and haralds who certainly would count as tough propositons.