From Iceland — Word Of The Issue: I Said Good Day, Sir

Word Of The Issue: I Said Good Day, Sir

Published July 2, 2024

Word Of The Issue: I Said Good Day, Sir
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The Grapevine’s Guide To Sounding Icelandic, One Word At A Time

Icelanders aren’t generally a smiley, friendly, greeting strangers in the streets kind of people, but it’s still good to know how to greet people in the event that you do meet someone whose heart hasn’t already been entirely petrified by years of solitude, putrefied foods and incessant wind. That’s why we’re going back to the basics in this issue with a look at the good’ol góðan daginn.

Góðan daginn literally translates to “good day” and it is used to — you guessed it — bid someone a good day. It’s pronounced “go-than die-in” and can sound like telling someone to “go on dying.” It’s not at all morbid, though.

When to whip out a góðan daginn is pretty straight forward: you can say it to a shopkeeper, cashier, barista or other customer-facing individual to pleasantly greet them before getting down to business.

You can say it on the phone when calling to make a doctor’s appointment before politely asking to complete the rest of your exchange in English and being given the run around because the woman answering the phones at your local heilsugæslan is a cold-hearted xenophobe who considers themselves a gatekeeper of medical care despite your taxes funding just as much of the healthcare system as a purebred Icelanders’ so they actively turn away immigrants from making appointments or find other ways to give them the run-around.

You can say it to a stranger in the street, but don’t bank on a friendly “daginn” (the standard reply) to be said back unless the stranger you’ve said it to is a person over the age of 70, in which case you’re far more likely to get a smile and a very warm “góðan dag” in response. It will make both your days.

You can use it any time you’d want to greet someone in a more formal or impersonal way than you’d greet a friend you’ve made plans to meet up with. In that case, a classic “halló” or “hæ” or “Nei! Hæ sæta! Takk fyrir siðast!” would possibly be more fitting. Actually, I dare you to approach a stranger with an enthusiastic “Nei! Hæ sæta! Takk fyrir siðast!” It’ll be fun.

And with that, I bid you góðan daginn.

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