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Icelandic name trial

Butterfree

Still loves Joltik, though!
Staff member
Pronoun
she/her
Okay, look.

The whole masculine/feminine thing here is not because ~women must be feminine~. Icelandic grammar has gender. Every noun has a grammatical gender, including names, and grammatically, you use the pronoun "him" and masculine forms of adjectives to refer back to a masculine word, even if the word happens to be referring to a woman in this sentence (so e.g. "person" is a feminine word, even if the person you happen to be talking about is a man). You can't just decide to be female-identified with feminine pronouns but have a masculine name; it doesn't make grammatical sense. There is a similar thing with how names can't be approved unless they conform properly to Icelandic grammar: if they didn't, they would sound really noticeably ridiculous wherever they were used in a sentence. It's not like English where you can just plop anything pronounceable into a sentence and use it as any part of speech and it will just sound vaguely exotic. It's the name equivalent of "Me are bestest sheeps".*

On the other hand, this particular case is pretty bizarre because 1) the precedent for naming a girl Blær comes from Nobel Prize-winning author Halldór Laxness, who made it inflect like a feminine word (Blær the masculine name inflects Blær - Blæ - Blæ - Blæs, but Blær the feminine name inflects Blær - Blæ - Blævi - Blævar), and 2) several women in Iceland are already named Blær in accordance with that precedent - one of them went to school with me and Shadey. Halldór Laxness even had precedent for what he did, because there are other names based on masculine common nouns that have been "feminized" like that and used as girls' names: common noun auður - auð - auði - auðs became the feminine name Auður - Auði - Auði - Auðar, for example. So there's every reason to allow this one in particular. That is what the case is actually about.

The international media coverage of this whole kerfuffle annoys me because nobody outside of Iceland actually understands the context properly. You just see "They have rules about names! WHAT HAPPENED TO INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM?!"

* Technically, there are a few names that actually inflect like words of the opposite gender, e.g. masculine name Sturla - Sturlu - Sturlu - Sturlu, but they're also old and sufficiently traditional that they've ceased to sound that odd. A name that's always been masculine and sounds and feels masculine, especially if it's identical to a masculine common noun, would feel really, really grammatically awkward on a girl.
 
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Teh Ebil Snorlax

izombie, uzombie, weallzombie
The international media coverage of this whole kerfuffle annoys me because nobody outside of Iceland actually understands the context properly. You just see "They have rules about names! WHAT HAPPENED TO INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM?!"
And this is why I refrained from commenting. I had enough faith in humans and enough skepticism towards the media to assume something like this was afoot.
 

Tarvos

helt plötsligt blev det tyst
I didn't read this until now, and the only thing it's made me wish is that my copy of "Colloquial Icelandic" had come in earlier. I haven't seen it covered in Dutch media, but Dutch naming traditions are just really feckin' weird, to the point where I'm happy Iceland has rules like this, because in the Netherlands you can be named some ridiculous stuff. I like that more traditional naming thing, it stops people from being named XD and Applesauce.

That said, I still have to figure out how the hell my parents got to naming me what they did because apparently it's an existing name, and there are apparently some other people who have it, but it's not exactly clear where it's from (there exist some variants in all Germanic languages, except... Icelandic I think?)
 

Minish

*
Pronoun
they
Until now, Blaer Bjarkardottir had been identified simply as "Girl" in communications with officials.
Even if it's not a case of grammar, wow this is skeevy. It came off a lot skeevier before Butterfree's post, but still wow why couldn't you just use her surname...
 

Tarvos

helt plötsligt blev det tyst
Icelandic surnames are patronymics, they are not (except for x thousand amount of people who do have a solid surname - I think that's like 3000, but someone correct me) family names tied to a certain family. Using a surname (Bjarkardottir) means "daughter of Björk". I don't know how useful that would be.
 

Minish

*
Pronoun
they
Uh, I know! But I don't see why they'd go straight to 'Girl' instead of using Bjarkardottir, even if it's traditionally kinda weird or whatever. I mean like this is official law, presumably they don't usually use someone's first name alone!
 

sovram

Arrogant
Pronoun
any
I knew even before Butterfree posted that most of the outrage would be misplaced due to a cultural misunderstanding, but yes, there lies an issue with referring to her simply as "Girl" in communications. There's something pretty deeply skeevy there. Unless there is some legal precedent I'm unaware of, which is also entirely possible.
 

sovram

Arrogant
Pronoun
any
I guess I meant to reinforce your viewpoint but also raise another question. Maybe there's really nothing malicious behind it. Maybe it was supposed to be as innocuous as referring to someone as "the client" or "the customer" as opposed to someone's full name. There could be some cultural or legal veil that we're seeing through and causing a misunderstanding. It's not as if Blaer were, for example, FTM trans but was repeatedly referred to as a girl by officials.

Obviously I have a bad feeling about it but I want to maintain a somewhat healthy level of skepticism, that's all. Don't mean nothing by it. (Also not trying to be apologistic! Gross)
 

Butterfree

Still loves Joltik, though!
Staff member
Pronoun
she/her
Uh, I know! But I don't see why they'd go straight to 'Girl' instead of using Bjarkardottir, even if it's traditionally kinda weird or whatever. I mean like this is official law, presumably they don't usually use someone's first name alone!
Icelanders always refer to people by first or full names; there is no such thing as using the surname to identify a person, under any circumstances, ever (well, unless you're really making a point about who the person's parents are, and then you're not really using their name to identify them, just using the same X's son/daughter construct). If somebody referred to you as "[your parent's name]'s child" in a context that had nothing to do with your parents, you would probably find that really weird and pretty dehumanizing - it would be exactly equally weird and dehumanizing to us. Well, except for the part where we're pretty used to foreigners making that mistake all the time. But one Icelander doing it to another would be bizarre and pretty gross, and it would never happen in a formal context.

(And yes, even in formal, official contexts, we use first names. We pretty much use full names where you'd use full names and first names where you'd use either first or last names, even in official communications or when talking about the president or whatever.)

When they say she was referred to as "Girl" in official communications, they mean that because Blær couldn't be registered as her name in the national registry, her first name was registered as "Stúlka" (which does mean girl, but is a bit more formal and respectful than the English "girl", and is the default temporary registration for a female infant who hasn't been named yet). This meant that schools, banks, etc. - institutions that use the national registry - would have her name registered that way (i.e. as "Stúlka Bjarkardóttir", not just "Stúlka"), so she would have to give up that name (and probably lengthily explain herself) in order to open a bank account or whatever and that was the name in her passport and on her official identification and so on. Form letters, bills and so on would presumably use the name written in the national registry as well, simply because how are the people sending those out to even know her name is supposed to be Blær? It doesn't mean government officials sneeringly called her "girl" in an active refusal to acknowledge that she had a name at all.

I mean, obviously this whole thing sucked for her, and the entire situation is incredibly awkward and weirdly handled, but I can't really see anyone being particularly gross in it as far as I understand the situation, except for the naming committee being stubborn about a name that should be perfectly legitimate. The her being named Stúlka bit is just the awkwardness ensuing from officially still having a placeholder for a name.
 
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Minish

*
Pronoun
they
I guess I meant to reinforce your viewpoint but also raise another question. Maybe there's really nothing malicious behind it. Maybe it was supposed to be as innocuous as referring to someone as "the client" or "the customer" as opposed to someone's full name. There could be some cultural or legal veil that we're seeing through and causing a misunderstanding. It's not as if Blaer were, for example, FTM trans but was repeatedly referred to as a girl by officials.

Obviously I have a bad feeling about it but I want to maintain a somewhat healthy level of skepticism, that's all. Don't mean nothing by it. (Also not trying to be apologistic! Gross)
I didn't make that post!! Wtf, server. ?__? I wouldn't quote my post passive-aggressively like that and I agreed with your post when I read it don't worry!!


Butterfree: huh! :o thanks for clearing it up! There being a name placeholder is pretty weird, but if it's not something they just randomly pulled, it seems way more reasonable.

I feel like assuming the worst of stuff like this is unfortunately usually pretty wise, but in this case, I guess not. Stúlka seems pretty hard to translate, it wasn't even clear if it was that or actually the English 'girl' ...
 
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