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Iceland Mag


Comedian and former mayor Jón Gnarr finally legally allowed to change his name to Jón Gnarr

By Staff

  • Jón Gnarr Stand-up comedian and the former mayor of Reykjavík, Jón Gnarr, has finally been granted permission to change his name to "Jón Gnarr". Photo/Stefán Karlsson

Jón Gnarr, stand-up comedian, actor, author, and the former mayor of Reykjavík, has finally been granted permission to register his name as “Jón Gnarr” on government documents. Jón announced this yesterday at a party where he was introducing his latest book.

Read more: Fear that the Nordic tradition of patronymic surnames will die out should naming laws be changed 

In Iceland people’s names are controlled by a special government commission, the Naming Committee, which approves or disapproves new names. The committee must approve all new names given to Icelanders, ensuring the names are in accordance with Icelandic tradition and language. Parents who want to name their children foreign, or new exotic names, must apply to the committee for permission, before the child can be registered with the chosen name. Adults who want to change their names must do the same.

Read more: MPs hope to change Icelandic naming laws

In the past the committee has been criticized for some of its rulings, and while some cases have ended with the committee’s rulings others have been appealed to the Minister of the Interior or ended in protracted battles in the media. The struggle of Jón Gnarr is probably the best known of these.

Until now Jón Gnarr has been listed on official documents as Jón Gnarr Kristinsson, Kristinsson being his patronym (it literally means “son of Kristinn”). Jón, however, has simply been known as Jón Gnarr for years, and has never been called anything else, except his political opponents, who have insisted on using the patronym as a rather pathetic insult (very much like some opponents of president Barack Obama, who insist on always including the middle name Hussein).

After having applied for the name change, appealed and lost, Jón enlisted the help of the US, having his name changed to Jón Gnarr in the US, and in March 2015 getting a US court order that his name was, in fact, Jón Gnarr. Still the Icelandic authorities and the Naming Committee refused to yield.

Now however, the Ministry of the Interior has overruled the Committee and finally approved the name.

We at Iceland Magazine want to congratulate Jón Gnarr on his victory, which is, of course, not only his, but also a victory of reason and compassion over bureaucracy.

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