People from, you know, other countries, countries where they do proper family names and call each other Mr and Mrs and suchlike, are usually pretty aghast when they see our phone book.
The Icelandic phone book lists everyone by their first names. Then comes your last name, then your address, then your occupation [to set you apart you from all the other Jón Jónssons, what else] and finally your phone number[s].
Everyone is listed by their first names in the phone book because here we call everyone by their first names. We don’t do Mr or Mrs. Not even when we’re small. Your teacher is Gunna. Your friend’s dad is Jón. Your president is Óli. Your Prime Minister is Geir. Your friendly local pop star is Björk. And so on.
Most of you will already know that, in addition to the jovial first-name basis, we operate on a system of patronyms, meaning that you take your father’s first name and simply add the suffix –son [if you’re a boy] or –dóttir [if you’re a girl]. Björk Guðmundsdóttir is the daughter of Guðmundur. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson is the son of Grímur. And so on.
That said, we do have a few family names floating around, that infiltrated the culture for various reasons. Names like Laxness, Gudjohnsen, Pedersen, Clausen, Mathiesen … come to think of it, a lot of –sens. Thanks to our Danish colonial masters, no doubt.
Our phone book contains a lot of useful information, as well. Apart from regular stuff like emergency phone numbers, etc. we also have useful information about things like the tallest mountains and waterfalls in the world, the longest rivers in Iceland, the solar system [YOU ARE HERE] and all the national flags in the world, not to mention EXTREMELY useful information about what to do in case of natural disasters: volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, flooding, mud slides, snow avalanches and earthquakes. Plus this year’s book has a cartoon on every page [it’s actually a full story] by Niceland’s not-so-nice Hugleikur Dagsson, who is renowned for his really dark comic strips. Seriously, you could spend hours just reading the phone book here in Niceland.
It totally rocks.