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Teen legally known as 'Girl' wins court battle to use her own name

Icelandic teenager Blaer Bjarkardottir, 15, left, seen with her mother Bjork Eidsdottir, won the right to use her first name Thursday.
Icelandic teenager Blaer Bjarkardottir, 15, left, seen with her mother Bjork Eidsdottir, won the right to use her first name Thursday.Anna Andersen / AP file

An Icelandic teenager referred to as "Girl" by the island nation’s authorities was finally given the right to use her own first name by a court Thursday, according to reports.

Blaer Bjarkardottir’s first name means "breeze" in Icelandic and was not on a list of approved names or otherwise permitted by the authorities.

The English-language website News of Iceland reported that the Icelandic Naming Committee had previously ruled that Blaer was only a man’s name.

But on Thursday a district court in Reykjavik ruled that it could also be used as a girl’s name, it added.

"I am very happy... Finally, I'll have the name 'Blaer' in my passport," the 15-year-old said, according to the Iceland Review Online, which added that her request for $3,950 in damages was rejected by the court.

Previously the authorities had recorded her first name in the National Registry as Stulka, which simply means girl.

According to the website, which is run by the government, the "Personal Names Register" includes "all Icelandic names that have been approved," but people can apply for permission to use names not on the list.

Embarrassing names not allowed

Names must be "adaptable to the structure of the Icelandic language and spelling conventions" and also "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," it adds.

Blaer's mother, Bjork Eidsdottir, previously told The Associated Press that she had "no idea that the name wasn’t on the list" and only learned this after Blaer was baptized by a priest, who later told her he had mistakenly allowed it.

"Blaer is a perfectly Icelandic name," she added. "It seems like a basic human right to be able to name your child what you want, especially if it doesn't harm your child in any way."

People in Iceland are usually referred to by their first names — with even President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson addressed simply as Olafur.

Surnames are usually based on either their mother or father’s first name. Bjarkardottir means daughter of Bjork.

Professor Armann Jakobsson, of the University of Iceland’s faculty of Icelandic and comparative cultural studies, said he thought Blaer was "a good name" for a woman and "more or less established now."

He said Blaer was used as a female name in a novel by Iceland's Nobel Prize-winning author Halldor Laxness, prompting other people to use it.

A girl called 'mistake'?

Armann, the son of Jakob, said the decisions of the naming committee were at times "very controversial."

He said there were lots of urban myths about names in Iceland. Two female names that are allowed are Mist and Eyk, prompting jokes that a baby girl could be given a name that sounds like "mistake," he said, although he was unaware of an actual example.

"The average person doesn’t understand the logic behind the law. The average person thinks the committee should ban silly names, rather than foreign-sounding names," he said.

"I think the committee is really unpopular, but I think many people want to have laws about this," he added.

"But there are also people who criticize this and say there should be no laws about names, but then they say [people] should not be allowed to be called Satan or Lucifer … or a number."