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New world. paux fas. [sic]

Icelanders tend to go on and on about how amazing it is that all those second- and third generation Western Icelanders still speak Icelandic. [For the record, Western Icelanders are people of Icelandic descent who live in North America, whose ancestors emigrated primarily in the late 1800s because they were sick and tired of getting repeatedly screwed over by the Norwegians or Danes or the forces of nature]. These people speak this archaic Icelandic and sing all these old Icelandic national songs and do it beautifully and, really, we ought to be in awe of them because it really is quite remarkable.

So anyway, every now and again – at regular intervals – there are reports in the media of what the Western Icelanders are up to and how amazing it is that they still speak Icelandic. Today one of those reports appeared in Fréttablaðið, about some guy who used to teach Icelandic in Winnipeg and now organizes annual trips to Canada and guides Icelanders around the areas where the Western Icelanders live. The report trots out the old isn’t-it-amazing-they-speak-Icelandic! chestnut, but also addresses the question of nuance, which sometimes can fall by the wayside, with some pretty funny results.

Example: Two guys meet up, and one says to the other [in Icelandic]: Ég rann inn í konuna þína í Háskólanum í morgun. An easy enough mistake to make, because it sounds like “I ran into your wife at the University this morning”. Had the New World Icelander been attuned to the nuance, however, he’d realize that what he said was: “I slid into your wife at the University this morning.”


Another example: Our man in the report had an acquaintance who was a Western Icelander, and one evening they were leaving somewhere and walked together out to their respective cars. As our man was getting into his car, the other guy said, Góða nótt ástin mín, which is a very intimate endearment and basically means, “Good night, my darling”. Our man did a double take, and tried to explain to the guy [whose mother and grandmother had tucked him into bed with those words] that this was, ahem, generally not the way two men said goodbye to each other. To no avail: his Western Icelander friend continued to bestow him with those endearments for the remainder of their acquaintance. Bless.

Well, they promised us decent weather today, and I guess they delivered. There were around five full minutes of sunshine, but at least the wind was minimal and there was no rain. I dragged EPI – who returned from a hiking trip last night, which I had to miss – up a mountain with me [I needed my mountain fix too, pout]. The only problem was they’re building so much around Reykjavík these days they’d completely changed the route to the mountain so we drove around for almost an hour before we could find it. I mean we could see it, but we couldn’t get to it — do you have any idea how frustrating that is?? Anyway, after we’d finally parked the car and were heading along a trail to the foot of the slope, we met a bunch of people on horseback, probably from some horse rental in the vicinity. The first girl – an Icelander – offered a cheerful Góðan daginn!, whereas the next person, a guy who judging by the accent was American, offered up this rather cryptic comment: “Been hiking so long the snow’s all gone, hahaha!”


Afterwards I couldn’t help thinking there was probably some snappy retort I could have offered in return, only I didn’t know what the bejeezus he was on about. Never mind. Rain for the next few days. Temps currently 13°C. Sunrise 04.14, sunset 22.52. And I now see from the mbl.is website that they’ve found a vaccine for the avian flu! Isn’t that great news?? Next if they could kindly fix cancer and aids, that would be fantastic.



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