Perspectives on Iceland Part 1 – Language and Music

Icelandic flag

Changing perspective is making dreams come true. My big dream travel-wise has been Iceland for a long time, and in 2012, I decided to put it into action. The part where my mother asked me could she come with me had not been part of that dream though but after some serious thinking, I agreed. You see, I love my Mum and we get on well but the last time we were on vacation together was…. 20 years ago? Wow, two decades! But it was really one of the best decisions we made!

This article here is not about me and my relationship with my mother though, but about the great little island of Iceland. And no, I am not going to give you yet another lengthy description about how we started off in Reykjavik and then went to Laugarvatn and then drove past Strokkur, up to Akureyri, oh what a drive… zzzzzzzzZZZZZ – readience, wake up!!! I said I will not do that! And while you’re at it, also check out Part 2 and Part 3!

Instead, I shall make a few points about my perspective on Iceland:

1. I am allergic to whores

2. I am my father’s yolk. If I didn’t know who my father is, I could still be Hans’ yolk.

3. Spare me of the ‘C’

4. Rammstein vs. Dimmu Borgir

5. Icelandic music is totally underrated

6. I need an Icelandic boyfriend

So, six points that I shall now elaborate on!

1. I am allergic to whores

Obviously I do not show any allergic reactions to the respectable profession of prostitutes. I am, in fact and among other things, allergic to nuts. So wherever I travel, I first try to find out what the food I am allergic to is called in the national language. This is because I know through experience, that even if the waitress claims to speak English or German, she might still not understand some of the words I’m saying, and just pretend that the very ingredients are not being used. Now, that’s still kind of survivable in a big city with good health care infrastructure, but you surely do not want to have an allergic shock in the middle of nowhere like in the back-country of Iceland where only sheep would watch you dying. That’s why, on the first day, I asked our tour guide Halldóra what the Icelandic word for ‘nuts’ was. So here it is: hnetur. Now, I always try to use memory hooks for new words, especially with languages that I don’t speak, and the way she pronounced it reminded me of the very offensive German word for ‘whore’. So there you go, every night at dinner I said to the waitress ‘I’m allergic to whor… whore… hnetur!!!’ It must have worked somehow, since I did not end up dying. Luckily, my other strong allergy is celery, which is ‘Sellerie’ in German and – yay! – ‘selerírót’ in Icelandic, so no more embarrassing hooks.

2. I am my father’s yolk. If I didn’t know who my father was, I could still be Hans’ yolk.

Icelandic surnames are great. I mean, their phone book is indeed sorted by first names (how cool is that?) but I love their surname system. Your surname is always your father’s first name followed by the Icelandic word for ‘daughter’ if you’re a woman and ‘son’ if you’re a man. And the word for ‘daughter’ is ‘dóttir’ which – hook! hook! hook! – sounds like the German word ‘Dotter’, and ‘Dotter’ means ‘yolk’. But if you think about it, isn’t that about right? You ARE somehow your parents’ yolk! So if my Dad’s name was Peter, I would be Lunatique Petersdóttir. Peter’s yolk – awwww. Obviously, this also leads to the fact that you have different surnames from your parents and for example husband, since their fathers (hopefully) have different names than your father.

So, I was asking myself (and at the same time reflecting what kind of world I live in) what happens if you don’t know who your father is? So I asked the new guide Lovísa (Halldóra had already left, I wonder whether she was already fed up with my questions, hehe) that very question. Ha! Caught her, she really had to think about that. She said that it is possible to then take your Mum’s first name and be her yolk. Yeah right! If you do that everybody knows straight away that you don’t have a clue about your genitor! The other option though is fantastic: the Icelandic word for ‘his’ is ‘hans’. Yes, like the German cliché porn name! So you can still call yourself Hansdóttir and no one will know whether your Dad is named after a German porn character or if you’re just ‘his’ daughter!

3. Spare me of the ‘C’

I only found out recently that the Icelandic alphabet apparently does not have a ‘C’. I learned this reading an article about some Icelandic woman who called her daughter something beginning with ‘C’ and now they are in big trouble because the letter doesn’t exist and you are only allowed to give your kids Icelandic names on the island. Bummer! They do have other letters though that do not exist in any other language. You know, I am a bit obsessed with languages, so I actually worked my way through it. If I am mistaken and you’re from Iceland, feel free to correct me.

They do have this little feller: Þ. Now, it looks like a weird ‘P’ but it’s actually the letter for ‘th’. Don’t get too excited, dear English speakers, it is not as simple as the English ‘th’. This one is pronounced ‘voiceless’, like in ‘think’. And it is not to be confused with this one: ð. Looks like a weird ‘d’, huh? It’s a simple ‘th’ as well, just the ‘voiced’ one, like in ‘that’. At the end of a word, it MIGHT be pronounced like the Þ… And I really think they invented all this to stop anybody to actually settle in their country and become one of them!

4. Rammstein vs. Dimmu Borgir

I went to see Dimmuborgir! All the metal heads out there now go “uuuuuuuhhhhh” but hold your breath! I did not go to see the Norwegian offense to my musical ear, I went to the place in Iceland called Dimmuborgir. And I LOVED it! There, you do start to believe that trolls and giants exist, just – tough luck for them – they have all been petrified and turned into stone. Grýla, the mother of the 13 Icelandic Santas (no, they are not nice and they are not old men with white hair and a red suit either) also met her fate there. She is forever stuck as a stone statue. Poor Grýla. But she was not a nice person anyway, so she probably deserved it. However, my point was, bands sometimes name themselves after a certain place. Dimmu Borgir do not really meet my taste in music but they surely picked a nice place for their band name. Unlike Rammstein. Ramstein is a place in Germany that no one would have heard of if it wasn’t for the terrible disaster that happened there in 1988. During a flight show at the US Ramstein airbase, one of the planes crashed right into people who had come to watch the show. About 70 people died and more than 1000 were injured. I actually read an interview with Rammstein years ago where they claimed they had no idea about that accident. Right. That’s why the lyrics of ‘Rammstein’ translate with ‘Rammstein – people are burning’. Chew on that one! But this shall be my only rather sad note here.

5. Icelandic music is totally underrated

We all have probably heard of Björk. In my opinion, this woman is one of the most annoying people out there! Her attitude, that is. Her music always got on my nerves a bit but I had to change my perspective in Iceland. While driving through the Icelandic landscape for hours and hours, I actually listened to one of her albums and with this surrounding, it blew me away! So back home, I got a bit deeper into Icelandic artists and actually listened to Sígur Rós for the first time ever. What can I say, I bought one of their albums straight away! Same with the (compared to the other artists) rather happy music of Retro Stefson. Before my vacation, my friend Tourmama introduced me to the music of Sólstafir. My first thought was ‘Oh man, get yourselves a singer who can actually sing!’ But once you get into it, you notice that nobody else could be a better vocalist for their music. I love love love! their music and will have the chance to see them on their tour in March. Check out their video ‘Fjara’ – and there you also get a great impression of the Icelandic landscape!!

6. I need an Icelandic boyfriend

As you see, my perspective on Iceland is a pretty positive one. And if you’re still with me here, you will have found that I am fascinated by the language. Now, try to find classes to learn Icelandic outside Iceland! I mean, given that there are only about 320.000 people living on the island, chances are not that high that you run into a lot of them outside the country. In fact, you don’t even really run into them IN the country unless you are in Reykjavik. And the truly best way to learn a language is to have a partner from the country of the desired language. Guess how I learned English! Icelandic sounds to me like a funny mix between old German and Danish (they don’t like the Danes there, but I am still saying it!). Now, I tried to learn Danish once but it’s really hard and you have to produce sounds that sound really retarded. By the way, I guess that’s why there are so many good-looking people in Denmark, especially girls. I think the creator (see how religiously correct I am here? Not ‘God’, not ‘Allah’, not ‘Ja*we’, just ‘the creator. Jesus, I’m good!) thought: “Hm… I better make them good-looking after giving them a retarded-sounding language, because otherwise nobody outside Denmark wants to breed with them. Since there are not so many of them, this will lead to serious inbreeding and ruining the beauty!” I think the creator was right. I mean, look what happened in Ireland! Ooops, that was not p.c., and Ireland, mo chroí, I love you and your inbr… uhm… inhabitants. You can take sarcasm, I know it!

Where was I? Ah yeah, learning Icelandic. I guess by now you will all agree on the fact that I do need an Icelandic boyfriend to learn the language. So if you’re Icelandic, male, single, between 30 and 40, have your act together, do not suffer from any serious mental disturbances and want to show me the Northern lights, please do contact me. I promise we will be together until I am halfway fluent in Icelandic!

I’ve got so much more to say about my personal inspirational Iceland but for now I will stop. I hope you had as much fun reading as I had writing!

Yours truly, madly, deeply!


All photos used in this blog are mine unless stated otherwise. Feel free to use them if you like, but be decent and link to this site!

PS: I can actually pronounce ‘Eyjafjallajökull’, but only if you give me enough time and don’t look at me while I’m trying!


13 thoughts on “Perspectives on Iceland Part 1 – Language and Music

  1. This was incredibly entertaining AND informative. I now know, thanks to your little lesson here, how to properly pronounce the Icelandic versions of the band members’ names in Solstafir. As their manager, booking flights for them is incredibly time consuming, but this will help me to remember properly. I always just call them by their “English equivalent” names. Man, will they be shocked 😀 More Iceland posts!!!!

  2. Pingback: Perspectives on Iceland Part 2 – photos | The German Perspective

  3. Pingback: Perspectives on Iceland Part 3 – three anecdotes | The German Perspective

  4. Pingback: Perspectives on Hamburg (and Sólstafir) | The German Perspective

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