Blær Bjarkardottir will now be able to use her first name, which means “light breeze”, officially. Icelandic authorities had objected, saying it was not a proper feminine name.
The country has very strict laws on names which must fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules.
Like Germany and Denmark, Iceland has rigid limitations about how a baby can be named. The names like Carolina and Christa, for example, are not allowed because the letter “c” is not part of Iceland’s alphabet. Names cannot be unisex either.
Blær’s mother, Björk Eidsdottir, has said that she had no idea that Blær was not on the list of accepted female names when she gave it to her daughter. The panel rejected the name because they said it was too masculine for a girl. There are some 1,853 approved female names on the Icelandic Naming Committee’s list.
This is very curious. You see, Icelandic is not unique in having cases for names. Russian does the same thing. Russian, however, deals with the situation entirely differently. If you are female and your name does not end in a feminine vowel or the “soft sign,” your name simply does not decline. As far as I know, it’s not against the law to name your female child something like “Карен,” but the name wouldn’t decline.
Karen is also a masculine name in Armenian. In Hindi, -a is a masculine ending and -i is a feminine ending, whereas in Spanish the tendency is for -a to be feminine and -o to be masculine. The linguistics behind name and gender is very interesting.
In English, this really isn’t of any consequence because English tends towards the analytic side compared to Spanish, Hindi, Russian, and Icelandic. In Spanish, -o is not only used in names but in adjectives. “Rojo” means “red (the grammatical gender of the person or object being described is male)” and “roja” means “red (same as above, but female).” This simply is not a thing in English. There is no standardized way to “masculinize” or “feminize” a name. What is the male equivalent of Karen? Or Bianca? Would it be Bianco? You can add -ina to male names to make them sound “more feminine,” but a reverse process doesn’t really exist.
It’s pretty damn cool. Stuff like this makes me want to study linguistics seriously, and get back to my languages. Unfortunately, I tend to enjoy grammar more than actually using the language…
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