A woman who has been trying to get her middle name changed to Kona, which is Icelandic for “woman”, has had her request rejected by Iceland’s Naming Committee twice. On the second rejection, she was told the committee’s reasoning was that it was considered demeaning. Both Karl and Drengur, which mean “man” and “boy” respectively, are still considered perfectly valid names.
Vísir reports that Kristbjörg Kona Kristjánsdóttir, who has been known by this name since at least secondary school, has tried unsuccessfully to get her legal middle name changed to Kona. Both times, this request was rejected.
“In the second instance, the Naming Committee came to their conclusion that it would be degrading for a female child to get the name Kona,” she told reporters. “Times are different now, and there is a new Naming Committee, so I suppose I need to apply again. I just hope that the committee is not chaired by people who still think it’s degrading to bear the name Kona.”
Kristbjörg argues that the conclusion of the committee is particularly strange given the qualities associated with the modern Icelandic woman.
“Icelandic women are strong, cool and independent,” she said. “Our solidarity against gender inequality has gone a long way, empowered a great deal and increase our quality of life in many areas.”
Icelandic “middle names” are not middle names in the sense meant by most English speaking peoples; rather, in Iceland they are more like having a second given name. This is why you will often see and hear Icelanders refer to one another by their first and middle names, e.g. Anna Rakel or Jón Birgir.
The Naming Committee is itself a controversial institution, and many prominent Icelanders—amongst them, writer and former Reykjavík mayor Jón Gnarr and former Minister of Justice Ólöf Nordal—have seen the committee as an antiquated institution that is no longer necessary. The committee’s mandate is to ensure that new Icelandic names abide Icelandic grammar, have historical precedent, and are not harmful to a child.
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