From Iceland — Just Sayings: "Sannleikurinn er sagnafár en lygin langorð"

Just Sayings: “Sannleikurinn er sagnafár en lygin langorð”

Just Sayings: “Sannleikurinn er sagnafár en lygin langorð”

Published November 10, 2020

Valur Grettisson
Photo by
Adobe Stock

The Icelandic idiom “sannleikurinn er sagnafár en lygin langorð” is especially fitting for this week. In English, it roughly translates to “The truth doesn’t need many words, but lies do.”

It goes without saying that this means that the truth is simple, while falsity is complicated. But indulge us, and let us elaborate for those that don’t get it.

For example, we could imagine a country that just had elections. There, the incredibly sore loser of said election might state that he didn’t actually lose, but that the election was instead fraudulent. Don’t worry, it’s totally a hypothetical situation.

The losing candidate—let’s say he has extraordinary small hands and a weird hairdo—would maybe go to great lengths to explain how someone witnessed someone asking someone to change dates on a ballot, even state that there was a conspiracy of dead people voting in masses, or claim that specific areas were give writing implements, perhaps a sharpie, that specifically destroyed ballots that voted for him. I know it’s far out, but stay with me.

He might even claim that a box of ballots mysteriously disappeared that would miraculously change the election in whole if it would be found again. After that, he would potentially make up odd claims that mail-in ballots (during a potential pandemic) were illegal. To top it off, he might end by asserting that poll watchers weren’t allowed to do their job and this somehow caused people to vote differently. Maybe his lawyer would announce this in front of a landscaping company next to a crematorium and an adult bookstore. Hey—it’s just a thought exercise.

But perhaps, in the end, the truth is quite a lot simpler (and less wordy): People voted, the legal votes were counted and you lost.

See the difference?

In my opinion, this idiom is not used enough in the Icelandic language, but it should, for it bears a simple truth and a good reminder of the nature of lies.

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