Icelandic Language Blog

Harðrok in the whole country! Posted by on Nov 14, 2013 in Icelandic culture, Icelandic customs, Icelandic history

news0011On the news this week: what about the killer pheasant? Is the rok really harð? Is Jón Gnarr ok? Let’s see:

The queen is here

Margrét Danadrottning* is currently in the country. Her visit is due to the Medieval literature collector Árni Magnusson’s 300th birthday celebrations so naturally the entertainment has all been linked heavily to it. Last night I attended a theatre show that was held for the queen, and while it was very entertaining it also managed to surprise me. You see, what I thought as suitable material for such an occasion would certainly not include a little boy of perhaps nine years old reciting a poem where he wishes to go “höggva mann og annan” (= kill a man and another), a large background image of two statues of Freyr** and Skálmöld as the finishing act. With a stage that rolled forward, smoke machines on full blast and a video of a young girl holding what seemed to be a wreath of bloodied guts.

Perhaps I’m the one here who’s oversensitive though; the queen of Denmark did not seem upset in the least. She left just as full of smiles as she had arrived with and it’s probably safe to assume that a queen of Denmark would not be easily shaken by Medieval poetry, artifacts or heavy rock that draws its influence from the era.

*All the members of royal families have their names “Icelandicized” as per rule. More about Icelandic naming rules here.

**Freyr is a fertility god and as such statues depicting him are very NSFW. You have been warned, here’s the most famous one of them, the Rällinge statuette (link).

Skálmöld spilaði fyrir drottninguna (= Skálmöld played for the queen)(link)


Storms throughout the land

The last week has been almost a non-stop storm and when it hasn’t been stormy we’ve merely had bad weather. The record is currently wind speed of 52m/second, and it’s a small miracle that there hasn’t been any large scale damage, but fingers crossed since another heavy storm is arriving today. To be expected: high wind speeds, rain, hail, sleet, snow and ice on the roads, I can hear the windows of our house shake already and this is just the beginning… On another note the word “harðrok” is a pun on the words harður (= hard) and rok (= wind).

A chihuahua was scared by the storm and ran away from its owners but no worries, little Lóa (= plover) has since been found by two school girls.

The IKEA Christmas goat fell during the storm. We’re mostly surprised it happened before anyone could light it on fire, and some people have commented that had it actually been burned the storms may not have happened, since clearly the heavenly anger was pointed towards the straw creature.

Flights have for most of the time been on schedule. During the worst storm last week they had to wait but Icelandic pilots are so used to harsh, windy conditions that the limit for postponing flights is set rather high. In case you’re flying to Iceland in the autumn be prepared for shaky landings and take-offs though – and if you have any Icelanders on board you’ll be able to tell them by the fact that they’re the only people there who don’t look anxious. They may even be whooping.

Vindhviður í 52 metra á sekúndu (= Winds/gusts at 52 m/s)(link)
Leita að litlum voffa í óveðrinu (= Search for a little pup in the storm: “voffi” is a really cute way of saying “dog” in Icelandic)(link)
Tvær níu ára stúlkur fundu Lóu (= Two nine year old girls found Lóa)(link)
Sænska jólageitin fauk um koll (= Swedish Christmas goat blown on its head)(link)
Winter Storm Disrupts Travel (link)


news003Christmas is on its way

Iceland is preparing for Christmas. Due to the severe lack of trees Norway habitually lends a hand at this time of the year, providing Reykjavík with a Christmas tree specially grown for us. On the first Advent the lights of the tree will be lit, and after Christmas is over it will be chopped up and burned.

We’ve already sent our mayor Jón Gnarr over to fell the tree (link). He sleeps all night and he works all day, puts on women’s clothing and is OK.


The most beautiful word

Icelanders are currently voting for the most beautiful word of Icelandic. They have been asked to send in their suggestions, of which 30 have now been selected for the final votes.

The difficulty in selecting the winner seems to be in that there are two ways a word can be beautiful. It can either mean something beautiful or sound beautiful, but by which should we be judging? We will do this the Icelandic way then, wait until the votes are in and see what kind of a word wins. Hulda is sad to mention that her own suggestion, lambalæri (= a leg of lamb) was not among the finalists.

Thirty Semifinalists for Most Beautiful Icelandic Word (link)

Here’s some of them. It’s an interesting view on what Icelanders hear as beautiful sounds. Lots of rolled R!


Hulda recommends:hulda078

Language learning hack of the week

Cannot roll your R? Try singing any of your favourite songs and pronouncing each R as sharp as you can. Another R-related tip is that if you cannot pronounce it, just use an L instead. Icelandic does not have any sound that would be even similar to the English R, so to be easier understood use a sound that they do have instead. Don’t worry too much though: never learning it will not stop you from speaking Icelandic – after all, not even all Icelanders can roll the R.

Fashion tip for November

Rubber boots, wellingtons, rain boots, whatever you prefer calling them. The winters in Reykjavík area tend to be wet rather than freezing, or you’ll get the freezing weather first which then thaws into deep puddles by midday. Wellies are also tall, which is not a small help when the snow reaches to your knees (which has happened every winter since I’ve moved here). Wear wool socks in them and you’ll be ready to combat almost any kind of autumn or winter weather.

Beware the pheasant!

Eggert the killer pheasant is still at large in Akureyri area. More about Eggert here.

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About the Author: hulda

Hi, I'm Hulda, originally Finnish but now living in the suburbs of Reykjavík. I'm here to help you in any way I can if you're considering learning Icelandic. Nice to meet you!