Names, New and Approved!

By Tim Fall

You read that right.  Not “new and improved” but “new and approved”.  That’s how things went in Iceland recently.

Iceland, like other Scandinavian countries has official name registers, and new parents are restricted to approved names on the register when it comes to naming their children. That didn’t sit well with one family:

A 15-year-old is suing the Icelandic state for the right to legally use the name given to her by her mother. The problem? Blaer, which means “light breeze” in Icelandic, is not on a list approved by the government.

According to government records, her name is not Blaer but “Girl” because they can live with that. What sort of foolishness is this, you might ask? A quick visit to the Icelandic name registry page sheds some light on their thinking:

Rules for names

  • Rules for Icelandic personal names provide that names must:
    • be able to have a genitive ending or have been adopted through custom in the Icelandic language,
    • must be adaptable to the structure of the Icelandic language and spelling conventions and
    • does not cause the bearer embarrassment.
  • Girls should be given a female name and boys should be given male names.
  • No person can have more than three personal names.

If we had these rules, you couldn’t name a girl Madyson: it has the wrong “genitive ending” (I figure “genitive” must relate to sex somehow, but I won’t go for the obvious joke); it might not be considered as fitting English spelling conventions (as if the English language has those anyway); and someone could make fun of the child and cause her embarrassment (as if it takes an odd name for parents to embarrass their kids).

The happy news is the commission saw fit to approve her name. It took them 15 years, but Blaer (formerly known as Girl) at least now has a good story to tell her friends.

New Names

Blaer’s story took me to Revelation 2:17

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give … a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

and Revelation 3:12

The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.

Jesus will give to his people and write on his people a new name, his new name, one that we will carry with us forever and that will be stamped upon us, a name that shows we belong to our blessed Savior.

It’s a name that’s new, a name that’s approved and one that is better than any we could choose for ourselves.

It’s a name I will be proud to bear and wear for eternity.


More about Tim

tim fallTim is a California native who changed his major three times, colleges four times, and took six years to get a Bachelor’s degree in a subject he’s never been called on to use professionally. Married for over 25 years with two kids (one in college, one just graduated – woohoo!). His family is constant evidence of God’s abundant blessings in his life. He and his wife live in Northern California. He blogs too.

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8 Comments to “Names, New and Approved!”

  1. Lesley says:

    Great thoughts, Tim. I am so glad I will receive a new name for eternity. I also don’t mind Iceland’s naming rules. They seem fair to me!

  2. Tim says:

    Thanks, Lesley. And for your next child, just to stay on the safe side of the Icelandic naming conventions, have you considered “Boy” and “Girl” as viable options? Because apparently government there would approve either of those in a heartbeat.


  3. […] have the privilege of writing my first article for Women of God magazine, about names and what it means to bear the name of God. Trillia Newbell, […]

  4. How do you dig this stuff up, Tim? Crazy. Nice application. “Gentitive” actually refers to the “possessive” function of a word – it’s a term we don’t use in English. Rather than adding an apostrophe, some languages change the word with a case ending (nominative – subject of sentence, dative – indirect object, accusative – direct object, genitive – possessive, vocative – direct address). The law must be there for the sake of clarity.

  5. Jeannie says:

    That’s interesting, Nick. I wonder if that’s something to do with how most Icelandic people have last names like Helgasdottir (daughter) or Gudmansson (son)? My aunt is from Iceland; I will have to ask her some of this stuff. Maybe Madyson wouldn’t be allowed because a girl can’t be a “son”?

    Very interesting post anyway, Tim. Names are very interesting and telling. It’s awesome to think Jesus will stamp us forever with His name.

  6. Tim says:

    How do I dig this stuff up? Doesn’t everyone stay on top of the latest news from the Icelandic Name Commission? In any case, I’m glad you’re up on the genitive stuff, Nick. Must be all that Hebrew and Greek you’re learning. Glad I get to benefit from your hard work!

  7. Tim says:

    “Jesus will stamp us forever with His name”

    Precisely, Jeannie. That’s a better summary than the one I came up with!

  8. Aimee Byrd says:

    Nick, I also often wonder where in the world Tim finds all his awesome material. On a more serious note, what a privilege it is to be named by our King (and not the approved list of this other government!).