From Iceland — Word Of The Issue: Olnbogabarn

Word Of The Issue: Olnbogabarn

Word Of The Issue: Olnbogabarn

Published September 21, 2018

Anyone who has more than one child and says they love them all equally is lying, as anyone with siblings can attest. There is always a favourite child, just as there is always a least favourite. In Icelandic, the latter is the olnbogabarn, or “elbow child.” The word implies, however, that the child’s status in the family is mostly of their own doing. Icelandic, like English, uses “elbowing” to mean to push against an adversary or obstacle, or to extract yourself through a tough situation. The olnbogabarn, then, is a child who is difficult, and often needs to be excluded or shut down for the emotional well-being of the rest of the family. It’s very telling of Nordic attitudes about familial affection, and that’s why olnbogabarn is this issue’s Word of the Issue.

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