The trouble with Blaer

Cara, Carolina, Cesil, Cathy, Christa, you’re not from Iceland are you?

There is no “c” in the Icelandic alphabet, so none of those names is allowed by the government there, which we learn today requires its people to have names on the list of acceptable Icelandic names.

The Associated Press reports that Blaer Bjarkardottir — we’ll just refer to her as “girl,” because that’s her legal name — is fighting the government’s refusal to recognize her given name because it’s not on the accepted list of 1,853 for females in that country.

This is what anarchy looks like in Iceland.

ap_blaer_bjarkardottir.jpg


This time, the panel turned it down on the grounds that the word Blaer 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.

Given names are even more significant in tiny Iceland that in many other countries: Everyone is listed in the phone book by their first names. Surnames are based on a parent’s given name. Even the president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, is addressed simply as Olafur.

Blaer is identified as “Stulka” – or “girl” – on all her official documents, which has led to years of frustration as she has had to explain the whole story at the bank, renewing her passport and dealing with the country’s bureaucracy.

Her mother is hoping that will change with her suit, the first time someone has challenged a names committee decision in court.

Waiting for the elusive Minnesota angle? Here it is: Prince is partially inspiring this Icelandic rebellion.


When the artist Birgir Orn Thoroddsen applied to have his name legally changed to Curver, which he had used in one form or another since age 15, he said he knew full well the committee would reject his application.

“I was inspired by Prince who changed his name to The Artist Formerly Known As Prince and Puff Daddy who changed his to P. Diddy and then Diddy with seemingly little thought or criticism,” he said. “I applied to the committee, but of course I got the ‘No’ that I expected.”