From Iceland — Words of Interest: Áfram Ísland!

Words of Interest: Áfram Ísland!

Published July 1, 2016

Words of Interest: Áfram Ísland!
Photo by
Eunsan Huh

The Icelandic football team has been front and centre of every sports section lately for their record-setting feat in the Euro Cup. An estimated 20,000 Icelanders are registered in football clubs, making it the most popular sport in the country.

But before soccer took centre stage, the most recognised Icelandic sport was handball. There are fewer registered handball players (around 10,000), but the men’s handball team took home the silver medal at the 2008 Olympics, and the bronze medal in the 2010 European Championship.

Despite their popularity and accomplishments, neither soccer nor handball are the national sport of Iceland. That honour goes to “glíma” or “wrestling”. While not as many people actually partake in “glíma,” it has deep roots in Viking tradition. It came over with the first Norwegian settlers, and according to the Sagas, a man’s physical strength was not only a necessity for survival, but also a source of pride and respect.


It’s no wonder then that Iceland holds the record for most number of championships won in the World’s Strongest Man competition. Magnús Ver Magnússon and Jón Páll Sigmarsson crushed it in the 90s, claiming four victories each. And who can forget Hafþór Björnsson, “The Mountain” on ‘Game of Thrones’, who, earlier this year, broke a 1000-year-old record for carrying a colossal log weighing 650kg (1433lbs).

#Icelandsmites indeed.

Every Single Word in Icelandic is a pictographic exploration of the Icelandic language. I find an interesting compound word, then deconstruct and illustrate it as icons. The goal is to express how Icelandic can be deadpan literal and unexpectedly poetic at the same time.

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