What's in an Icelandic sprite's name
August 31, 2006 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Met an Icelandic pixie in a bar; she disappeared in a puff of twinkly frost. I need you to help me spell her name. She went by "Anna" (so did her equally tall, equally blonde Icelandic friend!) but her full name was pronounced something like: Beern-Ana. Ok, so...who's got a clue as to how that's spelled?

She told me that the 'Beern' part is Icelandic for 'bear,' if that helps. (Maybe that is a lie. She seemed to tell me several lies in the space of a few minutes. I'm smitten.)
posted by snortlebort to Writing & Language (15 answers total)
It's "bjarn" or "björn" according to Why are people in Iceland not named after fish like Bleikja (arctic char) or Urriði (trout). Google finds results for bjarne-anna and björn-anna.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:25 AM on August 31, 2006

Probably Björn? Which is, in fact, Icelandic for 'bear'. I believe it's the same, or similar, in a number of other Scandinavian languages like Danish and Swedish. By itself it's usually a (fairly common) male name, but I bet her name is really Björn-Ana or Björn-Anna.
posted by miagaille at 10:29 AM on August 31, 2006

mbrubeck's link talks about women being named "Arna," for eagle. So there might be variations on the "Anna" part as well. "Bjornarna" seems to be showing up as a single entity on Google, but I can't really tell what that entity might be, since I don't speak Icelandic.
posted by occhiblu at 11:06 AM on August 31, 2006

I can't really answer your question but björnarna means the bears in Swedish which might explain why it shows up a lot on Google.
posted by sveskemus at 11:45 AM on August 31, 2006

Ahhh. Figures I'd find da bears, I'm from Chicago.
posted by occhiblu at 12:10 PM on August 31, 2006

It's illegal to make up your kid's name, in Iceland. Icelandic children must legally be named an already-existing recognized Icelandic name. There is a big book, the Nafnabokin, that lists all of the permissible names.

This means it's possible to brute-force the problem. If you live near a big or university library, you could see if they have a copy of the Nafnabokin and look up all the permissible girls' names that start with Bjorn.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:10 PM on August 31, 2006 [6 favorites]

LobsterMitten, I have learned something new today!
posted by Eringatang at 2:17 PM on August 31, 2006

This kind of name oddness seems to be common in Scandinavia (please, any Scandis reading, spare us all the "Iceland's not in Scandinavia" thing). I learned from my Swedish friend that the Swedish government can refuse to let you name your child something, if they disapprove of the name for some reason. People have had to take the government to court before just to get the name they wanted for their child. Strangely alien concept altogether.
posted by reklaw at 2:56 PM on August 31, 2006

I'm Icelandic. Sure sounds like her name is Birna. That's a fairly common name.

You can look her up in the phone book :-)
posted by einarorn at 3:04 PM on August 31, 2006

Icelandic children must legally be named an already-existing recognized Icelandic name. There is a big book, the Nafnabokin, that lists all of the permissible names.

Actually, that's not quite true. We have a committee set up by the government, which handles all requests for new names. So you can actually try to name your baby something new, but the government has to approve it.

Also, our last names are weird and people are listed by their first name in the phone book. :-)
posted by einarorn at 3:11 PM on August 31, 2006

Also, regarding the first comment: "bjarn" is not a name but rather a prefix, as in the names "Bjarndís" and "Bjarnheiður". And "björn" is a boy's name.

"Bjornarna" is also not a name (at least not in Iceland).

Her name is Birna! :-)
posted by einarorn at 3:46 PM on August 31, 2006

einarorn: oops! Thanks for correcting me!
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:53 PM on August 31, 2006

So you met a girl in a bar, who didn't give you her contact info, and now you wish you could Google her and find her?

I wasn't there, so in fairness I have no idea of the circumstances, but I will say that if I want further contact with a guy I meet in a bar, he gets my info before I "disappear."

I'm in her position (a rare enough first name that it's trivially easy to find out everything about me if you know my name's correct spelling plus one or two basic keywords re. my life/work). I'm okay with this, but we really don't know whether she is...
posted by allterrainbrain at 6:39 PM on August 31, 2006

I realized as I posted that it might seem that I'm trying to get to Stalk City. Uh, I guess there's no way i can prove that I'm not a dangerous psycho, except to say...I'm not a dangerous psycho! Birna or bjarne-anna or what-have-she needs not worry about me.
posted by snortlebort at 4:26 PM on September 1, 2006

bjarne-anna is also not an Icealndic name :-)
posted by einarorn at 7:11 AM on September 2, 2006

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