From Iceland — Name Committee Adds To The List

Name Committee Adds To The List

Published August 24, 2011

The Name Committee has added a couple new entries to Iceland’s legally approved names, while rejecting others. Their conclusions might surprise you.
The committee is a special government sponsored body which legally approves or rejects new names for Icelanders. Names are approved which demonstrate that they have featured significantly in Icelandic history. It must also be possible to decline the names in accordance with Icelandic grammar.
Vísir reports that the Name Committee has approved Mara and Sophie. This might be unexpected, given that Sophie is hardly an Icelandic or even Nordic name, but the wisdom of the Name Committee is often a mysterious thing.
Rejected names included Marias, Dania and Vikingr, as the committee believed that the first two names “were not in harmony with Icelandic rules of writing”. Vikingr, which is probably about as Old Norse a name as you could imagine, was rejected on the grounds that “it breaks with the Icelandic language system”. This is probably a reference to the -r ending of the name; Icelandic dropped the singular -r centuries ago, replacing it with -ur, -ar or -ir.
An example of a name’s ending, however foreign, getting the Name Committee to approve it would be Ripley, a girl named by her father, who happened to be a big fan of Ridley Scott’s Alien. The -ey ending is in a lot of Icelandic girl’s names (e.g., Fanney, Laufey, etc.) and as such, was in perfect harmony with Icelandic grammar.
As dry as working on a name committee might sound, the job is not without its share of intrigue. In 2009, a controversy arose when the committee found itself facing a split decision over the name Skallagrímur. The committee is rarely evenly divided on a name, and in this case it was, in part, due to the fact that the “skalla” part of the name refers to baldness, and there were concerns children so named would be mercilessly teased.
For more on the name committee and what they do, read Anna Andersen’s article on the subject.

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