Just Sayings: “Enginn Verður Óbarinn Biskup” - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Just Sayings: “Enginn Verður Óbarinn Biskup”

Just Sayings: “Enginn Verður Óbarinn Biskup”

Published July 18, 2019

Andie Fontaine

One expression you are likely to hear in Iceland is “Enginn verður óbarinn biskup,” which literally means “no one will be an unbeaten bishop.” Essentially, the phrase means “it takes considerable work to reach your goals,” and one English version of this expression would be “no pain, no gain”. 

The phrase is apparently even confusing to Icelanders, many of whom have questioned whether beating up bishops was a common practice in the old days. In fact, it’s a reference to one Bishop Guðmundur Arason, who was influential in the 12th and 13th centuries. Guðmundur apparently had to endure a lot of hardship in order to attain this high office, especially as a child, when he would be severely beaten if he slacked off on his studies. 
Today we know that physical violence does not help children study, but the expression has persisted over the years to present day.

For more “Just Sayings” like “Enginn verður óbarinn biskup,” click here.

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