If I’d been born here, I’d be Julie Philipsdottir. Names are patrynomic, so boys add -son to their father’s name & girls add -dottir. That’s the way it was and that’s the way it is. For a time before 1925 in Iceland you could create a new last name. Then they decided they didn’t like that so much, so again the naming conventions went back to the either/or. If you had one of those magic last names, you could keep it. Just recently, foreigners adopting Icelandic citizenship were allowed to keep their last names. Before that, at naturalization, kids up to 18 years old were required to change their first names too.
Ah, first names. First names in Iceland must already be in use in the country. If it isn’t, it must be approved by the Mannanafnanefnd, the Icelandic Naming Committee. It meets sporadically, it’s quite controversial, and it’s pretty sweet. Since the letters C and W, for example, don’t exist in the Icelandic alphabet you can go ahead and cut out Carla and Wilbur from your list of potential baby names if you move here (Karla might sneak by the Mannanafnanefnd). However, you could rock a name with the runic throwback thorn -Þþ- which has a -th sound (If the -th is not at the front of the word you sometimes get to use the Old English -ð-, which has the same sound and is also pretty cool. I don’t know when you get to use that instead of the þ, but you do. Sometimes.).
Right near our apartment is a big building. It has a large apple (although you can’t name your child Apple, sorry. Epli, Icelandic for apple, is also a no go for now. I checked.) made up of two holding hands on the façade. I have no idea what it is…an adoption agency or a family planning center are the leading contenders when I discuss this topic with myself. The windows contain shades that appear to have acceptable Icelandic names.
(note all the fabulous accents, umlauts, a few ð, even a þ snuck in.)
And then there’s this gift:
And, thank you. I love the fierce commitment to tradition. I love the idea that the phone book lists people by first name (then last, then profession if further clarification is needed). Teachers go by their first names. The president goes by his first name. I love that the Mannanafnanefnd won’t allow names that will cause embarrassment. But. Hey, hey that name is awesome.
For funsies, click here to see what your Icelandic name would be. I’m sure it is very accurate, as are all online name generators. So, had I truly been born here, according to this totally legit widget, I’d be Lilja Philipsdottir. Julie’s not on the list. I feel ya, Apple.