Icelandic has an undeserved reputation for being a prescriptivist, gatekeeping language. While this is definitely true when it comes to given names, it’s not as true for the rest of the language’s vocabulary. Case in point: the Facebook group Ný Orð (New Words). Here, you will find Icelanders introduce a new word—either one they heard or one they thought up themselves—and run it up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes. Some of these words have been featured in our Word of the Issue section (e.g. “djammviskubit,” which refers to the shame one feels after a night of partying). Others are attempts at translating foreign words into Icelandic (e.g. “mæðraflagari,” from “motherfucker”). Icelandic, being a Germanic language, particularly lends itself to the creation of portmanteaus, or unusual blends of words to create new meaning, so those are also very popular. But the fact that Icelanders are so eager to develop and debate the creation of new words is a testament to the fact that Icelandic’s inflexible nature is a myth. People will accept new words all the time, and however controversial they may be at first, if enough people say them, they will enter the vocabulary whether the gatekeepers like it or not. Just like in any other language. Ný Orð is a wonderful group for the purpose it serves: aiding and abetting the vibrant, living nature of the Icelandic language.
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