Call of the North (13): Do you speak Elvish?

Among the Nordic languages, I like Icelandic most so far. While Danish and Swedes sound jumpy when they speak, like they’d speak to little children, with stumbling sounds like „ütt’ – ött’ – ätt’ -itt”, Icelandic is more free-flowing, from the tip of the lips, with the oddest sounds combined in a pleasantly natural way. For example, đ is pronounced like a „th” in „leather”, Þ is like a dry „th”, in „thing”, then they have the strong „chhh”, but not as spit-full as in Dutch, æ is like ä in German, they also have ö and ü. The „s” is strong, like in Spanish and Greece, „LL” is pronounced “DL”, „au” sort of an „eu”, etc. This crazy combination sounds very much like Elfish, the language spoken by Arwen & co. in the Lord of the Rings – i find hearing this on the streets utterly cool.

For example, the word Snyrting – doesn’t it sound nice? You can already imagine a hero in a story with elves, druids and vikings, maybe from the same gang with Aragorn, Legolas, Mithrandir, Gimli or Boromir.


It means “Toilet”.

But there are other cool words. For example, this street in the center: Dar Skólavörđustígur. Or, the coolest Italian-Icelandic combination I saw:

One last thing, speaking of Elves and Gnomes, it seems I haven’t been far off with my hypothesis – not long after thinking about it I found this:

The Icelandic language is the ancestor of German and English. Since they were isolated here for so long, they kept the Viking language from around the year 1000 almost unaltered. Lingvistic treasure. I wanted to buy an English-Icelandic dictionary, but as it was ~20EUR, and tomorrow at 7am plane is leaving, I stayed to Laxness’ book. If I’ll ever need it, we’ll see then. But at least one thing I needed to find out. So I went to the book store clerk and asked her how to say “cool” in Icelandic. It’s “FLOTT”, or “SVALT”. Flott, like in German, or swell, like in English. Cool.

One thought on “Call of the North (13): Do you speak Elvish?

  1. Cool, almost as cool as the clicks of the Bushmen (

    Nevertheless, this time the dark armies of Mordor have managed to mess up the noble Elves pretty well. Several of their best castles have fallen under the axe, their armies of foot soldiers were blown to the smithereens (from the Gaelic “smidirin” = shattered fragments, to stay in the language world), townspeople ran with the gold and buried it in the back garden, and the brave Elvish kings had to bow down their heads and beg the mercy of the Lords from the other sides of the Great Ocean…

    Damn’ this financial crisis!


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