Icelandic naming traditions are a peculiar thing.
First of all, it's conventional not to name one’s offspring right away. Usually the parents announce the child's name after a few weeks or even months.
In comparison, in my native country Germany, parents are obligated by law to name their child within one month.
In Germany, it is common for parents to choose the name shortly after the baby is born or even during the pregnancy.
I, on the other hand, think it makes perfect sense to wait for a few weeks and to get to know the newborn.
Secondly, in Iceland, you cannot pick just any name for your child. For instance, Shan'ique, Snoopy and Chardonnay are off limits.
In Iceland, mothers and fathers have to choose from a list of legal names.
If the desired name is not on the list, they can send a request to Mannanafnanefnd, the Naming Committee and wait for approval or rejection.
The desired name has to fulfill certain conditions, such as historical precedent, meaning that other Icelanders have had the same name.
Also, the potential name must have the ability to decline in accordance with Icelandic grammar and “may not conflict with the linguistic structure of Icelandic.”
Forenames must fit the Icelandic grammatical case structure. For example, when declined, the name Njáll becomes Njál, Njáli and Njáls in the respective cases.
So, if your submitted name cannot be declined accordingly, forget about it. Pedro was rejected recently because no Icelandic name ends with an “O”. However, some witty parents turn Pedro into Pedró, which was approved, as it can be declined correctly.
The law also states that the name's spelling has to be within the rules of Icelandic orthography. The alphabet of the Icelandic language contains 32 letters, but not “C” or “Z”, which is why many names are rejected. Therefore, Carolina, Christa and Balthazar must be spelled Karólína, Krista and Baltasar in Iceland.
Another condition is that the name shouldn't embarrass the child. Well, I sure hope no parent would want to make a fool out of their child by giving him or her a name that could result in bullying. For instance, the girl's name Satanía was rejected for that reason.
Although legal, the names Ljótur (“Ugly”) and Lofthæna (“Air Hen”), which were used in the past and fulfill Icelandic grammar conditions, are rarely used anymore as they might become a social handicap for the name bearers.
One may think these rules limit one's freedom immensely, but actually, the naming law makes perfect sense, at least to me.
I've talked about linguistic purism in Iceland before, which aims at protecting the purity of the Icelandic language and also applies to naming children.
In other countries there seem to be no rules at all. There are terrible people out there who name their sons and daughters Moxie Crimefighter, Number 16 Bus Shelter, Midnight Chardonnay, Adolf Hitler, Rumpelstiltskin, Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii or Pilot Inspektor.
In light of that, Icelandic children should be grateful for the Naming Committee preventing their parents from ruining their lives.
Having unlimited freedom and being able to be imaginative when picking your child's name is all good and well, but isn't the wellbeing of the child more important?
I'm grateful that there are limits here in Iceland and I like the fact that Icelandic names are mostly traditional as they are very poetic and beautiful, albeit sometimes almost unpronounceable.
And I'm also grateful that my parents named me Katharina and not Fifi Trixibelle.
Katharina Hauptmann – email@example.com