The countries that won't let you name your kid something ridiculous

A 15-year-old Icelandic girl is suing the state for the right to use her own name:

In a country comfortable with a firm state role, most people don’t question the Personal Names Register, a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules and that officials maintain will protect children from embarrassment. Parents can take from the list or apply to a special committee that has the power to say yea or nay.

Blaer Bjarkardottir -- the girl filing the suit -- is a particularly good test case since her name comes from a female character in a novel by Halldor Laxness, the nationally beloved Nobel Prize-winning Icelandic author. It's a bit like a French girl not being allowed to be named Cosette, and the government might be more receptive to Blaer than they were to the conceptual artist who wanted to be called "Curver" are few years ago.

Iceland has one of the stricter naming regimes, but it's not the only country where Apples, Suris, and Blue Ivys would not be tolerated.

Swedish children's names must meet with the approval of the country's tax authorities. Past offenders have included kids named Metallica, Ikea, and Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (pronounced Albin). Interestingly, they were OK with "Google."

German children "must be given names that clearly denote gender and they cannot be given family names as first names," and there are complicated restrictions on combining last names with hyphens.

Danish parents must pick a name from an approved list of "7,000 mostly West European and English names -- 3,000 for boys, 4,000 for girls." Recently, a few non-European names such as Ali and Hassan have been added to accommodate immigrants. 

It's not just the Northern Europeans. China has a law against names using Arabic numerals, foreign languages, and symbols that do not belong to Chinese minority languages, which was bad news for the parents who tried to name their kid "@" in 2007.

As recently as the 1960s, French children had to be named after Catholic saints thanks to a Napoleon-era law. The regulation was eventually relaxed thanks to legal appeals from the Breton community. 

The rest of these countries will presumably loosen up eventually thanks to immigration, globalization, shifting gender norms, and pop culture. But perhaps not soon enough for young Blaer, who is still referred to unceremoniously as "stulka," or "girl," on her official documents. 


Is Mussolini cool again in Italy?

The open nostalgia expressed by Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his allies for Benito Mussolini isn't really much of a new story. The fascist leader's granddaughter, a former actress and Playboy model naturally, serves in Parliament as part of Berlusconi's political coalition. The 2009 documentary Videocracy features media tycoon and prominent Berlusconi backer Lele Mora proudly showing off the fascist-era anthem he downloaded as his ringtone.

But according to the Sydney Morning Herald's Tom Kington, the kids are digging Il Duce these days as well:  

At the turn of each year, Mussolini calendars appear in newspaper kiosks up and down Italy. They are often tucked away with the specialist magazines, but they are much in demand, according to the manager of one firm that prints them.

''We are selling more than we did 10 years ago,'' said Renato Circi, the head of the Rome printer Gamma 3000. ''I didn't think it was still a phenomenon but young people are now buying them too.''

Sixty-eight years after the fascist dictator was strung up with piano wire from a petrol station in Milan, Mussolini has quietly taken his place as an icon for many Italians.

Among his adherents are the masked, neo-fascist youths who mounted raids on Rome schools last year to protest against education cuts, lobbing smoke bombs in corridors and yelling ''Viva Il Duce''.

A mob that ambushed British football fans drinking in a Rome pub in November was also suspected of neo-fascist sympathies.

But the cult of Il Duce has also slipped into the mainstream. Last year's decision by a town south of Rome to spend €127,000 of public funds on a tomb for Rodolfo Graziani, one of Mussolini's most bloodthirsty generals, was met with widespread indifference.

One leading businessman has proposed renaming Forli Airport in Emilia Romagna, the region of northern Italy, where the dictator was born - Mussolini Airport.

Some say the Mussolini of today's Italy is simply a pop-culture icon -- a kind of right-wing Che Guevara -- signifying muscular patriotism rather than actual fascist ideology. It's a bit disturbing that young people are rediscovering a fondness for Mussolini at the same information has emerged indicating that he was far more complicit and supportive of Nazi war crimes than previously understood.