When in Rome …

Strange, the parents – especially the native Icelandic mother – of this 10-year old girl (related English article by The Guardian) should have been aware of the naming rules here in Iceland. What’s the big deal?

Usually Icelanders have first name, middle name and patronym or matronym as last name, occasionally a family name instead if their heritage is Danish, Norwegian or Swedish within the last few hundred years under changing rule.

When first confronted with the fact I was a bit surprised, but by no means shocked or disgusted by the idea. The fact that names of Icelandic citizens should conform to Icelandic grammar shouldn’t be a surprise and is certainly sensible. The fact that a commission has to approve the name is the other side of the coin and indeed stifles creativity as Jón Gnarr complains in The Guardian article linked above.

Heck, the commission even approved names starting with C and C is a letter not known from Icelandic words. Every Icelander having a middle name usually goes by either first or middle name chosen depending on the circumstances and taste. E.g. if there’s a Sigurður Ragnar and a Sigurður Arnar in the same study group, one might go by Ragnar the other by Sigurður. Icelanders generally call each other with the informal þú, related to English thou, and first names. There is nothing like Mister Þórarinsson for a Sigurður Ragnar Þórarinsson, because it would be pointless for a patronym to be used to address an individual when there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other individuals descended from a father named Þórarinn.

What’s more Icelandic names are beautiful. Nothing wrong with preserving and promoting that beauty in the context of this small society.

One thing is for sure, though. The rules should be completely waterproof and right now there seems to be enough room for discussion and interpretation. But then, it’s a common ailment from which legislators the world over seem to suffer …

If I were to pick up an Icelandic name it’d be Ólafur which is close enough to my original name, has a similar nickname Óli instead of Olli, and may even be related to Oliver, although that’s disputed (origin may be Romance languages, having something to do with olives, or Ólafur and Olaf etc.).

// Oliver

This entry was posted in EN, Island/Iceland/Ísland, Opinion. Bookmark the permalink.

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