The World Today for June 15, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

WORLD

Repression By Grammar

Traditional Czech speakers add “ova” to the last names of females. The suffix literally means “belonging to” a husband, father or another male relative, explained a Cox News Service story that noted how “ova” in English refers to female egg cells.

A proposal now making its way through the country’s legislature would give Czech women the option to record their names without a gendered last name, however. Justice Minister Helena Valkova told the BBC that the tradition created an “unjustified, unequal position.” Neighboring Slovakia has passed a similar measure, she added.

Czech linguists, on the other hand, say the “ova” is part of Czech grammar, wrote Radio Prague International. Eliminating it in official documents could cause confusion. The state-owned broadcaster suggested that women were increasingly likely to prefer a masculine name. Czech lawmakers are still considering the measure.

The potential change is the result of one of many similar campaigns in courts and governments around the globe, reported the Washington Post. Languages throughout the world have long favored patronymic naming. In English, think Johnson or Robertson, meaning the “son of” John or Robert. In Arabic, the convention uses “bin” or “ibn” as in Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, the sultan of Oman, who is the son of Tariq bin Taimur Al Said.

In 2019, Iceland passed the Gender Autonomy Act, abolishing a requirement for gendered names and allowing citizens to take whatever kind of name they wanted, according to the Iceland Review. The same law also allowed individuals to change their official gender based on their identification. Among their options would be an “X” that would be neither male nor female.

Nonbinary Icelanders who can’t find either an official male or female name in the country’s register of official Icelandic names can apply to a Naming Committee that can register and change one’s name for a fee, wrote the Reykjavík Grapevine, an English-language magazine based in the island nation’s capital.

Many Japanese women, meanwhile, are asking why married couples must have the same name under a 120-year-old law that mandates at least one person in a couple changes their name, reported NHK World-Japan, a Japanese public broadcaster. While the men in couples could change their name under the law, they almost never do so.

Conservatives in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have been blocking Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s efforts to amend the law, Nikkei Asia added.

What’s in a name? A lot, apparently

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