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Yesterday's news that an official Horse Naming Commission had barred a horse farmer in North Iceland from naming her horse Mósan raised more than a few eyebrows, as most people were unaware of the existence of this commission. A government commission which has to approve all new names given to people, the Naming Committee, has frequently been the subject of controversy.
The two commissions are different, an expert with the Icelandic Food and Veterniary Authority, told the local news site Vísir. The Horse Naming Commission is not an official government body, he points out, although one of its two members is appointed by a government agency, and the reason for its creation is somewhat different than the Naming Committee.
Two different naming committees
The primary purpose of the Naming Committee is to ensure all human names adhere to Icelandic naming practices as well as Icelandic grammar. Names which violate Icelandic grammar rules or naming practices are therefore rejected, as well as names which are deemed likely to cause the bearer torment or suffering. This reasoning was used to reject the name Hel, the goddess of the underworld in Norse mythology, as a given name for a girl.
The Horse Naming Commission was set up after sexually suggestive, inappropriate or vulgar names for stallions started popping up in breeding registries. Jón Baldur Lorane, with the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority told Vísir that the overwhelming majority of horse owners give their horses "good and proper Icelandic names", but not everyone.
A registry for Icelandic thoroughbred horses
Owners of Icelandic horses and their breeders register the horses in WorldFeng, a world database of Icelandic horses, operated by FEIF, The International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations. The database was set up by the Icelandic Government in cooperation with FEIF in an effort to keep track of the breeding registries and heritage of horses. More than 400,000 horses, alive and dead, are registered in the database. Horse names cannot be changed after the horse has participated in a competition, or had a registered offspring.
One of the unique characteristics of the Icelandic horse are its names, Jón told Vísir, adding that almost all foreign owners of Icelandic horses prefer to adhere to the Icelandic tradition, and the WorldFeng database can serve as a resource for owners to find good Icelandic names.
An effort to protect traditions and the Icelandic language
But when some owners in Iceland began giving their horses inappropriate or vulgar names the operators of the database, the International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations and the Icelandic Agricultural Advisory Center, decided to step in and stop such names from being entered into the database. All names in the database have an attached audio file with the Icelandic pronunciation of the name in question. The database therefore serves to promote and protect the Icelandic language, Jón told Vísir.
"One of the characteristics of the Icelandic horse are the Icelandic names. Something like 99.9&% of people agree that we need to protect the naming tradition. Of course horses have always been given all kinds of names, and therefore there came a point where it was necessary to impose strict rules to stop people from giving absurd names."
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