West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / #31 Galileo / *Mis-namings

In #31 Galileo, there is talk of a fire in a missile silo in "Koselsk in the Oblast region":
Jeffrey R. Buck writes "I was in several former Soviet republics last year and I am positive that Oblast. . . ."is Russian for province or state, not the name of a region."

We asked Vance P. Frickey, one of our regular contributors, if he knew where Koselsk really was and he wrote back: "Koselsk is. . . located in the Kaluga oblast of Russia" using the word 'oblast' the way we now know it is supposed to be used and telling us what province Koselsk is really in.

In #31 Galileo, Leo talks about the Icelandic ambassador, whose name is Vigdis Olafsdottir, about whom Leo tells the President, "He's very excited to meet you." But we are assured that Vigdis Olafsdottir can only be the name of a woman:
Several people wrote us about this.
  • Maura Crowther tells us: "The thing is, 'Vigdis' is a woman's name and, in Iceland, only a woman would have 'dottir' at the end of her name. Olafsdottir = daughter of Olaf. Her brother would be named Olafsson." She went on to say: "The reason I caught the error in the Ambassador's name (or gender) is because I had just finished reading the Tom Clancy book "Red Storm Rising" in which one of the female characters is named Vigdis Agustdottir and there is some discussion of Icelandic naming customs. For an independent opinion, here are a couple of links on Icelandic naming conventions:"
  • Laurie Channer sent us the following references:
    • US State Department Website http://www.state.gov/www/background_notes/iceland_0697_bgn.html Most Icelandic surnames are based on patronymy, or the adoption of the father's first given name. For example, Magnus and Anna, children of a man named Petur, would hold the surname Petursson and Petursdottir, respectively. Magnus' children, in turn, would inherit the surname Magnusson, while Anna's children would claim their father's first given name as their surname. Women normally maintain their original surnames after marriage. This system of surnames is required by law, except for the descendants of those who had acquired family names before 1913. Most Icelanders, while reserved by nature, rarely call each other by their surnames, and even phone directories are based on first names. Because of its small size and relative homogeneity, Iceland holds all the characteristics of a very close-knit society. "Daily News from Iceland" (Trade Council of Iceland) http://www.icenews.is/basics.html
      Iceland is alone in upholding another Norse tradition, i.e. the custom of using patronymics rather than surnames; an Icelander's Christian name is followed by his or her father's name and the suffix -son or -dottir, e.g. Gudrun Petursdottir (Gudrun, daughter of Petur). Members of a family can therefore have many different "surnames," which sometimes causes confusion to foreigners!
    • She goes on to explain: "if you are Leif Erikson's daughter Anna, you would be Anna Leifsdottir. Erik falls out of the picture for the next generation's names."
  • Brent Butler also wrote on the subject saying:" I lived in Iceland"
  • Lisa Winters wrote "Much to my surprise, for such a research-minded show, Leo referred to the Icelandic ambassador as "he" and NEVER corrected himself. The ambassador's name was referenced as 'Vigdis Olafsdottir' which is decidedly female in both parts! The surname alone is a dead giveaway."

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