When Icelanders fail Icelandic.

Posted on 02. Jul, 2015 by in Icelandic grammar


Default State by Helga Weber at Flickr.com

I’ve often addressed the various problems a language learner might come across when learning the language, but sometimes it seems that Icelandic is not easy for the natives either. Despite all the efforts at preserving the language it just tries to change itself anyway, resulting in f.ex. þágufallssýki – the dative illness – where people will attempt to use a dative form instead of accusative. For once people who are studying the language have a slight upper hand, because while you’re learning you can keep the Icelander-typical mistakes in mind and learn to not make them in the first place. Let’s have a look at the things Icelanders may struggle with.


An often used example of this is the verb að langa (= to want) because it demands the subjective in þolfall (= accusative). However, today a large amount of Icelanders think þágufall would sound better and try to shove it in instead:

Mér langar í ís.

Mig langar í ís. (= I want ice cream.)

Sigurði langar í ís.

Sigurð langar í ís. (= Sigurður wants ice cream.)

This is not limited to this particular verb either; similar verbs are f.ex. að vanta (= to lack something) and að hlakka til (= to look forward to something). Of these the first one takes only þolfall, the latter a nefnifall (= nominative):

Mér vantar mat.

Mig vantar mat. (= I’m lacking food/I don’t have food.)

Mér hlakkar til að sjá þig.

Ég hlakka til að sjá þig. (= I’m looking forward to seeing you.)

Þágufall cannot substitute neither nefnifall nor þolfall here, not for any reason, so if you hear a local use it instead don’t “correct” your own language use accordingly – it’s a mistake.


Wegweiser by helmar at Flickr.com. Iceland can confuse anyone!

Using ef instead of hvort

This mistake may have roots in English, the language that nowadays has the largest influence on Icelandic. Let’s look at the example “I don’t know if Hulda is home.”

Ég veit ekki ef Hulda sé heima.

Ég veit ekki hvort Hulda sé heima.

Though the words “if” and “ef” technically speaking mean the same, in this context they’re false friends. Interestingly this false friend is actually affecting people’s mother tongue instead of the language they’re learning, but as long as you keep in mind that you cannot just translate every “if” as “ef” you’re safe.

I or y?

Since certain vowels in Icelandic are pronounced very much the same they sometimes confuse people in written forms.

afneytunafneitun, aldreyaldrei, dreyfadreifa, fleyrafleira… the list goes on, but you can look at some of the most typical mistakes here.

Hin nýja þolmynd

The new passive voice, nýja þolmynd, refers to a faulty way of creating passive voice. This one’s a little harder to explain but Icelandic has its own way of creating þolmynd – let’s look at some examples:

Það var sagt mér…

Mér var sagt… (= I was told…)

Það var bannað mér.

Mér var bannað. (= I was forbidden.)

Avoid starting your sentences with “það” when using passive voice and you’re just fine. :)

Don’t worry though, I’m not trying to say that Icelandic is so horribly difficult that even Icelanders couldn’t learn it properly. If anything every language has its tricky parts – no doubt each one of you readers could easily name examples from your own mother tongues where the native language users make mistakes – and Icelandic is no exception. However, learning what the locals get wrong is like seeing a ditch and therefore not falling in it, language-wise!


More about the most typical mistakes Icelanders make:

Sex algengar málvillur sem gera mann gráhærðan (= Six common language mistakes that make your hair turn gray) here.
Hverjar eru algengustu villurnar í talaðri íslensku? (= What are the most common mistakes in spoken Icelandic?) here.
Listi yfir íslenskar stafsetningar- og málfræðivillur (= A list of Icelandic typos and grammatical mistakes) here.


Confused PC by Luigi Rosa at Flickr.com

Who hit Bam Margera?

Posted on 25. Jun, 2015 by in Icelandic culture, Icelandic customs


Islande 2011 by stephane333 at Flickr.com

Icelandic rap scene received some questionable fame last week when a fight broke out at the Secret Solstice music festival: headlines were made all the way to Europe and USA, stating that Bam Margera had been beaten up by three or four “popular Icelandic rappers”.


To put it in as simple and truthful terms as possible, for some reason a few Icelandic rappers were shown on a video beating up Margera. Originally the news were stating that Bam Margera had allegedly harassed female members of staff and that the rappers had come to rescue. However, soon the story began to take more twists and turns and in the end this is the best summary I think I can give.

Egill Tiny, one of the men seen beating Margera up, says they were not in fact attempting to rescue anyone but themselves. According to an interview by him Bam was harassing people in general, had been doing that for a while and that it was actually him who started the fight (link). Bam’s opinion is that he didn’t harass anyone and that the man he wanted to meet to discuss financial matters with sent his underlings to beat him up instead (link). Margera did originally also state that he wanted to press charges against the rappers (Gísli Pálmi and Egill “Tiny” Thorarensen) but alas, it would seem that Bam decided against it after all… or, as the police put it, was too impatient to do it and left right after talking to the police (link).

Curious details

The above link has another bizarre detail for this story, by the way – an official form for listing injuries in Margera’s name, not completely filled out, that was found tossed on the ground near Leifsstöð. The person who found it assumes it could be possible that since the form is all in Icelandic Bam might have had too much trouble trying to understand it and had flat out given up rather than ask for a translator (in my experience you do always get someone to translate you the forms if you need help with them, but I admit it’s annoyed me a few times that there often is no English option).

Well, it’s not like his Iceland visits have gone that well even before the fight at the festival happened, as upon arrival Bam was briefly arrested for the damages he had caused and left unpaid during his previous visit (link).

Who hit Bam Margera?

So who are Gísli Pálmi and Egill “Tiny” Thorarensen anyway if they’re so popular? Well –  to introduce them it may be best to let their music do it for them.

Gísli Pálmi

Ískaldur (= ice cold)(link). Lyrics here. This one mayyy be done a little bit tongue in cheek, just a hunch. 😀

Set Mig Í Gang (= start me up)(link). Lyrics are included in description.

Draumalandið (= the dream land)(link). Lyrics here.

Egill “Tiny” Thorarensen

Race City (link). By the now broken-up band Quarashi, Egill Tiny was a member and is rapping in this song.

K2R by Halleluwah featuring Tiny (link).


Hulda recommendshulda078

Since we’re talking about Icelandic rap musicians I’ll definitely have to push some more of them, so without further ado –

Úlfur úlfur – Brennum allt (= let’s burn all)(link). A brilliant video shot quite near where I live. 😀

xxx Rottweiler HundarÍ næsta lífi (= in the next life)(link).

Ari Másson & SiffiHugargull (= very difficult to translate, but I could suggest “gold of the mind”)(link). Lyrics are included in the description field. It doesn’t get more Icelandic than this, he’s even rapping in a sort of… rímur-ish way (a traditional Icelandic poetry meter)!

Hi ho yippee yay, Iceland!

Posted on 18. Jun, 2015 by in Icelandic culture, Icelandic customs


Iceland flag by biologyfishman at Flickr.com

…or as we say it in Icelandic, hæ hó jibbi jei! Anyone who’s been in the country for the past week has no doubt both seen this line and heard the song it’s from (link) countless times because yesterday was Iceland’s National Day and Sautjándi Júní is actually far more popular song for the day then the real national anthem (link). Let’s look at some photos from yesterday!

17017This is still early – by the end of the day the whole hillside was one thick crowd of people. In the front of the picture is the statue of Christian IX of Denmark handing Iceland constitution. Behind him stands Ingólfur Arnarson, the first permanent Norse settler of Iceland and the man who gave Reykjavík its name. He doesn’t usually have the flag shied on his platform, that’s strictly a National Day addition.

17010Everything you could need for the National Day: regnhlífar (= umbrellas), fánar (= flags), rellur (= pinwheels) and pylsur (=hot dogs, like it says). Rain, patriotism, wind and so much exercise that you’ll need food sooner or later, that’s the National Day in a nutshell!

17012You can also opt for just eating so much sugar it takes you through the day. Many parents take this option with their children and for once it’s just fine, the whole downtown is closed for traffic and full of bouncy castles and other ways of spending all that extra energy.

17078Here’s one example. These… things have become massively popular lately, especially with children. You prop you kid inside one of those and send them rolling on Tjörnin for a while, seems to be great time. 😀

17024Here’s my own favourite part of the day – the parade! Of course when I say parade I mean a group of people moving towards the same direction with more people joining in as the line moves down Laugavegur from Hlemmur to Lækjargata. It tends to float along a few marching bands, street artists, occasionally protesters (none this year, they were already busily protesting by the house of the parliament I think) and of course lots and lots of Icelanders. And balloons. More and more balloons the nearer the parade gets downtown. The reason is that there are companies that like to hand out balloons for free, and though I’m already 36 I may have one as well… I love balloons!

17066Another thing that I love, cotton candy. On the National Day cotton candy stands are absolutely everywhere and the smell of sugar was driving me crazy until I finally caved in and got myself some. It’s a skill to eat it in the windy weather… a skill I’ve yet to master. Everything was sticky. My hands, my camera, my face, my clothes, my hair.

17059As you may have noticed the National Day is a very child oriented occasion here. There’s all kind of activities for the little ones, rest assured it’s almost impossible for them to be bored!

17076Icelandic national dresses. These ladies are wearing faldbúningur, the oldest type of the Icelandic national dresses. Unlike usually in Europe the national dresses of Iceland don’t mark the wearer’s home area but mirror different eras of Icelandic dress instead.

17036This lady is wearing a slightly newer dress type called upphlutur. You can see more Icelandic national dresses here.

17047Oooh visitors from the east! This is still from the parade by the way.

And what would the Norwegians serenade us with? Well – Sit on My Face by Monty Python, apparently. 😀

17056Still the parade. It picks up so much people and the street itself is so narrow that it always ends up taking a very long time just to pass through.

17071Remember that picture of king Christian IX and Ingólfur I posted earlier? Same hill one hour later. There’s a large stage to the left of the picture and also a First Aid + Missing Children point (this year’s casualties were one missing child and one injury that needed a plaster).

All in all the National Day is always a great experience. I warmly recommend it if you happen to be around on the 17th, don’t miss the party (and the free balloons)… hæ hó jibbi jei og jibbi jei, það er kominn sautjándi Júní!