RX Beckett

Singer / Writer living in Reykjavík. Transplant from Canada 

5 minute read01 Dec 2016

Lost In Iceland - Quirky Icelandic phrases that just don’t translate

Every country and culture has its own set of idioms and expressions that make outsiders tilt their heads in wonder. Iceland’s legacy of wordsmithery has left the local vocabulary with a particularly amusing set of phrases that can leave one feeling like they are coming from the mountains (translation: have no idea what someone is talking about.)

Here are three such sentences that might confuse the casual eavesdropper.

Ég tók hann í bakaríið – I took him to the bakery
Say you’re out having a nice hangover brunch at Prikið on a Sunday afternoon and a couple of tables down there’s some guys talking about what they did last night. One of them tells his buddies that he took another guy to a bakery. You might be wondering what bakery was open at 3am last night, and why that is so impressive, but the guy is just bragging about kicking someone’s ass, cause Saturday night’s alright for fighting.
(Meaning: I gave him a beating)

Áfram með smjörið – On with the butter
So you’re doing a semester at Háskóli Íslands and working a group assignment with a mixed bag of locals and imports. Things have hit a slow point and you’d all seem to rather chat about the cats on Bergstaðastræti or that show you’re going to at Húrra later, and then someone in the group says it’s time to get on with the butter. Your frustrated group-mate is noticing that the deadline is fast approaching and it’s time to keep your heads down, power through, and git ‘er done!
(Meaning: Keep the work going)

Það er rúsínan í pylsuendanum – It’s the raisin at the end of the hot-dog
Your new Icelandic friends have just swept you out of town for a sudden road trip to the Reykjadalur valley and you have no idea what you’re in for, except they told you to bring hiking boots and a bathing suit. Forty-five minutes into the muddy hike, you ask them if you’re being punished for overdoing it at Kaffibarinn last night and they assure you that you will be rewarded with a raisin at the end of this hot-dog. Sounds disgusting, until you all reach the amazing natural hot river at the end of the hike and your hangover just floats away.
(Meaning: The cherry on top)

Now keep your ears peeled for all the weird and wonderful words around you, you little latté sipping wool-scarf wearers!

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