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Iceland: Family Fined over Daughter’s Name

(Mar. 20, 2015) Icelandic parents of a young girl are facing daily fines of ISK1.47 (about US$0.01) because they gave their daughter a name not previously used in Iceland for a girl. (Anita Rienstra, Icelandic Parents Facing Daily Fines over Daughter’s Name, ICE NEWS (Mar. 15, 2015).)

Iceland’s Personal Names Act requires all names to be officially approved and further requires that the names be linguistically and socially acceptable. The Act states:

Forenames shall be capable of having Icelandic genitive endings or shall have become established by tradition in the Icelandic language. Names may not conflict with the linguistic structure of Icelandic. They shall be written in accordance with the ordinary rules of Icelandic orthography unless another orthography is established by tradition.

Girls shall be given women’s names and boys shall be given men’s names.

A forename may not be such as to cause its bearer embarrassment. (Personal Names Act, No. 45/1996 (May 17, 1996), art. 5, Ministry of the Interior website.)

In the case at hand, the parents named their baby girl Alex Emma. When Nanna Thordis Arnadottir, the mother, tried to register the name, she was told by the registration authorities that the name had not previously been used for a girl in Iceland, and several months later the name was rejected. The ground for rejection was that Alex was not historically or traditionally a girl’s name; it was not, however, considered to violate the Icelandic language. (Reinstra, supra.)

The Reykjavík District Court decided a similar case in 2013, giving a 15-year-old girl the right to use her name, Blaer. Previously the name had been ruled inappropriate as a female name by the Icelandic Naming Committee, a body formed in accordance with the Personal Names Act and comprising three appointees, each serving four-year terms. (Palash Ghosh, By Any Other Name: Iceland’s Bizarre Naming Rules and Customs, INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES (Jan. 31, 2013); Personal Names Act, arts. 21-23.)

Arnadottir has stated that she has talked with Blaer’s family and that she will not accept the Committee’s decision regarding the name Alex. (Reinstra, supra.)