Published November 26, 2013
Reykjavík mayor Jón Gnarr took an opportunity yesterday to challenge the parameters of Iceland’s naming law, one which he says is an “unfair, stupid law against creativity.” In a post on his Facebook page, the mayor took particular issue with the fact that foreigners moving to Iceland can keep their non-Icelandic names, but Icelanders themselves do not have the freedom, for instance, to spell names using characters which are not currently part of the Icelandic alphabet, or to take names which are not approved by the country’s naming committee.
“When my daughter was born she was named Camilla, after her grandmother. When I got the certificate sent home her name was spelled Kamilla. I thought it was a misunderstanding but after a phone call to the registration I was told C was now banned in the Icelandic alphabet,” begins the mayor’s post.
“I was born Jón Gunnar Kristinsson. When I was a teenager I changed my name to Jón Gnarr. That’s what I’ve been called most of my life. But it is not my legal name. You see, family names are banned here. It’s to protect some Icelandic tradition bla-bla-bla. Immigrants used to be forced to denounce their names and take up an Icelandic names. It is a violation of international human rights so they were forced to change it in the 90’s. Icelandic parents are not allowed to name their child Jesus. But a lot of immigrants with Icelandic citizenship are named Jesus…Let’s say you would like to take up the name Reykjavik you would be rejected but if Jim Reykjavik would move to here he could keep his name. It’s just unfair, stupid law against creativity.”
Jón Gnarr is certainly not the first Icelander to take issue with Icelandic naming laws. Most notably, the case of fifteen year old Blær Bjarkardóttir Rúnarsdóttir, who until this year was officially known as “Stúlka” (‘Girl’) because the Naming Committee would not approve her “masculine” name, drew wide international and domestic attention to the country’s current naming laws.
The mayor ended his post with a bang, suggesting that since he can’t afford to sue the government for the right to keep his own name—a lawsuit which he may lose anyway—that maybe he should simply seek citizenship elsewhere. “I could move to some other country where I would have my name accepted officially it would automatically be accepted here. No problem at all. So where can I get citizenship? Any idea? My name is Jón. Jón Gnarr. Can anyone help me?”
At the time of this writing, it seems that the mayor—and his name—would be welcomed with open arms in any number of countries and cities around the world. Numerous enthusiastic followers on Facebook have issued invitations for him to take over as mayor of Toronto. Barring that, it’s been suggested that he move to the Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the UK, Uruguay, Venezuela, Detroit, Ljubljana, or Sydney, among many others.
See the mayor’s full post (in English) and suggest alternate citizenships here.