From Iceland — Name Committee Warns Against Being Shut Down

Name Committee Warns Against Being Shut Down

Published March 10, 2015

Iceland’s Name Committee has responded to legislation which would, if passed, shutter the doors on the institution.

The bill in question is being led by Bright Future MP Óttarr Proppé. While similar to a previous bill he submitted on the matter, this version has considerably more partisan support – which includes MPs from the ruling coalition, giving the bill greater chances of passage.

The bill argues that “parents should be trusted to name their own children”. The bill addresses the two main reasons given for the existence of a Name Committee – keeping names in line with Icelandic grammar and tradition – by pointing out that “our culture hails from everywhere, and thus the Icelandic naming tradition is rooted in Danish, French and English culture”, adding, “the Icelandic language and, consequently, naming tradition thrives when those who use it are trusted to comply with it without interference and onerous laws.”

The Name Committee has submitted their objections to the bill, arguing that they have repeatedly asked for meetings with the Ministry of the Interior to make the naming laws clearer. As it stands now, they argue, the legislation on what constitutes a “legal” name is unclear, leaving the Naming Committee to use their best judgement on a case-by-case basis, which they say “leads to rulings which may be contradictory.”

The committee also cautions that, without laws about what are boys’ names and girls’ names, “it would be possible to name a boy Þorgerður [a female name] and a girl Sigmundur [a male name]”. They add that, in the event the bill passes into law, “it will be impossible to avoid disputes that arise over names and their registration”. The bill as it is now states that “if a minister, head of a religious organisation or the National Registry believes that a first or middle name violates the law, it will be referred to the [Minister of the Interior].”

Former Reykjavík mayor Jón Gnarr has long been an opponent of the Name Committee, as they have repeatedly blocked his attempts to legally change his name to the one by which he has been known for years now. Jón managed to get around this last January – by having his name legally changed in the US.

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