Replies: 12 - Last Post: Jun 5, 2013 2:27 PM Last Post By: zashibis
May 15, 2013 11:57 PM
Icelandic namesThe other day I was at the library looking at books in the detective fiction section. Now that Scandinavian thrillers are popular, there were quite a few there. I noticed that two Icelandic authors were in the wrong place, under A for Arnaldur Indridason and Arni Thorarinsson.
I asked the librarian who told me that they had received a notice specifying that Icelandic names should be filed that way, and only Icelandic names, not any of the other Scandinavians.
Icelandic surnames seem to be formed by adding son or dottir to the father's name. Does anyone know why the first name comes first on a library shelf?
May 16, 2013 2:11 AM
1Iceland is not Scandinavia, of course, but, that apart, this seems very strange to me. It's true that Icelandic surnames are formed using the son/dottir-template, but I don't see why this should mean that authors should be filed under their first names. I used to work in a library (in Norway) and we certainly filed Icelandic authors under their surnames, with the exception of Snorri Sturluson, who just went by the name of Snorre, and Sjón, who clearly finds it beneath himself to use his surname at all. I've never seen this file-by-first-name practice anywhere else, either, so my initial suspicion would be that the poor librarian's been had.
May 16, 2013 2:17 AM
2It's because the second names really are simply patronymics, not surnames. Family names aren't used at all in Iceland. Therefore, it makes sense that in Iceland names would be arranged alphabetically by first name--as they are in Iceland's phone directories, for instance. Other Nordic countries have proper family names, though, so that's why "only Iceland."
Needless to say, even in a country as small as Iceland, the lack of family names can cause confusion. Which explains this unique smart phone app.
However, following Icelandic custom in a library in an English-speaking country seems bizarre. How on earth is anybody unfamiliar with the writers' national origin and with Iceland's country-specific naming practices supposed to find the book? Where do they file Halldór Laxness, who assumed a surname as part of his pen-name, but was born Halldór Guðjónsson? This would seem to be a case of your library's attempt at "authenticity" trumping common sense.
May 16, 2013 4:00 AM
3This is a small library in France. When I asked the librarian, he told me that they used to file the books under the last name, but that they had received a notice from somewhere higher up in the chain of command to do it this way. Next time I go I will ask where the directive came from.
I'm not sure that it's confusing for people looking for a detective story to read -- they just browse the shelves like I do.
I'll have a look to see where they put Halldor Laxness next time too.
May 16, 2013 4:24 AM
It is noticeable that the Wiki list of 20th Century Icelanders is inconsistent in its alphabetical ordering, some are by first name, some by last name. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:20th-century_Icelandic_people A handful of other people with surnames (not just Polish, etc, ones) can be found there.
Univeral usage of surnames is quite recent even in some parts of continental Scandinavia. You still find people with only patronymics quite commonly in the early-mid 19th century in more rural parts of Norway, for example, and a few remaining examples late in the century.
May 16, 2013 1:03 PM
May 16, 2013 2:30 PM
6Burmese names are another case which would have European librarians scratching their heads. They only have personal names - for example President Thein Sein is the child of Maung Phyo and Khin Nyunt. Although two syllables is the usual fashion in prominent Burmese at the moment, increasing numbers of syllables are popular in the next generation. They tend to suffer being assigned the final syllable as a surname when foreigners get at them, though in reality it is all just one personal name of several syllables. You may as well write it Theinsein, etc. But probably they got split into multiple words because Europeans couldn't cope with people with only one name.
U Nu, the first prime minister of Burma, had just a one syllable name, Nu, the "U" is an honorific, like "sir". Similarly U Thant, once Sec Gen of the UN. Probably those honorifics made Europeans feel comfortable that his name had its proper componentry of at least two parts.
Aung San Suu Kyi is a rare case - she stuck her father's name Aung San in front of her own name Suu Kyi. When your father is the liberator of the country, it helps to remind people whose daughter you are. It is probably what has kept her alive.
Jun 4, 2013 8:41 AM
Jun 4, 2013 12:58 PM
8"The Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR) are a national cataloging code first published in 1967. AACR2 stands for the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, Second Edition. It is published jointly by the American Library Association, the Canadian Library Association, and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in the UK. "
Their rule is
The plural of anecdote is not data.
Jun 4, 2013 6:54 PM
Jun 5, 2013 2:44 AM
Enter an Icelandic name under the first given name, followed by the other given names (if present), by the patronymic, and by the family name, in direct order.
Jun 5, 2013 4:41 AM
11Pfft. Knut Hamsun was Norwegian. I was thinking of Halldor Laxness. Apparently he had been treated as an exception, but under the 1991 rules was to go under H. Page 34 in this Google book.
Jun 5, 2013 2:27 PM
Check out all our reviewed and recommended accommodation and book online.