Iceland's Name Laws May Soon Come To An End - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Iceland’s Name Laws May Soon Come To An End

Published August 7, 2015

Photos by
Nanna Árnadóttir

A combination of strong public support and government willingness could spell the end for Iceland’s notorious name laws.

Minister of the Interior Ólöf Nordal, in an interview on the radio station Bylgjan this morning, told reporters that she believes Iceland’s naming laws need to be abolished. To this end, her ministry is currently drafting a bill to do just that.

“Most of all, I want to do away with the naming laws,” she said. “I think it should be parents who decide what their children should be named.”

The news comes barely two months after her ministry announced they were considering re-examining the laws, and sought public opinion on the matter.

Moreover, RÚV reports that the results of a new poll from the Social Sciences Department of the University of Iceland show about 60% of respondents in favour of doing away with the naming laws. 20% were neutral on the matter, and only 20% were against getting rid of them.

The purpose of the naming laws – and the Naming Committee which operates under their auspices – is to ensure names can be declined in accordance with Icelandic grammar. They also seek to determine if a new name has historical precedence in Iceland. Currently, foreign names are simply not declined when used in Icelandic speech or writing.

Iceland’s name laws have come under considerable criticism in the recent past. Former Reykjavík mayor Jón Gnarr has been especially vocal in his opposition to the laws, which had prevented him from changing his legal name to the one he has been known as for decades (he would eventually make the legal change in Texas).

Icelandic citizen Harriet Cardew has also had to deal with considerable headaches due to having a foreign name, and still cannot get a passport because of it.

The bill abolishing the name laws will likely be submitted to parliament this autumn.


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