National Registry Rejects Jón Gnarr’s Name Change Skip to content

National Registry Rejects Jón Gnarr’s Name Change

Actor, comedian, and former Mayor of Reykjavík, Jón Gnarr, tweeted earlier today that the Icelandic National Registry has yet again rejected his application for an official name change.

Jón was born Jón Gunnar Kristinsson, but when he was a child, and his mother or another relative would call out for him, the repeated pronunciation of ‘Jón Gunnar,’ came to sound like ‘Jón Gnarr.’ The name stuck, and when Jón began his career in the entertainment industry, he dropped the patronymic Kristinsson, and became known solely as Jón Gnarr.

While Jón was able to change his legal name to Jón Gnarr Kristinsson in 2005, his repeated attempts to officially change his name to just Jón Gnarr, with Gnarr as a last name, rather than as a middle name, all failed.

Icelandic naming laws prohibit the adoption of new last names, and children are traditionally given a patronymic, matronymic, or both.

Those Icelanders whose parents or grandparents bear a last name are allowed to adopt it, even if it was not given to them at birth, and exceptions are also made for naturalized citizens of foreign birth. It is this aspect of the law in particular, that has led many, including Jón, to claim that it is inherently discriminatory.

Hypothetical naturalized Icelandic citizen, Eric Smith, can take up a matronymic or patronymic after either his own parents, or his partner’s parents. So if Eric’s father’s name is John he could take up the name Johnsson or Jónsson. And if he married Árný Þórsdóttir, he could take the name Þórsson and become Eric Þórsson, or even Eric Þórsdóttir if he so pleased.

He would also be permitted to take the last name of his partner, so if he instead married Árný Briem, he could then become Eric Briem. Icelandic-born citizens, however, are not permitted to use their spouse’s last name, except as a middle name.

Last January Jón moved to Houston, Texas, where he spent the spring semester as Writer-in-Residence at Rice University’s Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences. While there, as the holder of a U.S. social security number, he was able to legally change his name to Jón Gnarr.

“The ruling applies everywhere in the world, except in Iceland. I can be issued legal ID in the States with this name, and it is my name for all official purposes,” said Jón in an interview with RÚV earlier today.

He had hoped that the American ruling would be taken into account in his most recent application to the National Registry, but that application has now been rejected on the basis that Jón is primarily an Icelandic citizen, and therefore a name change in a different country does not grant him an exception to Icelandic naming laws.

“I will never give up. This is my right, and is no one’s business but mine. I don’t know what I will do next, but I will do something,” said Jón of the ruling.

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