Just Sayings: Að Tefla Við Páfann - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Just Sayings: Að Tefla Við Páfann

Just Sayings: Að Tefla Við Páfann

Published September 27, 2019

Valur Grettisson
Photo by
Screenshot/HBO

“Að Tefla Við Páfann” is probably the first idiom that many Icelandic kids learn. It literally means “playing chess with the pope.” But the meaning is far from literal. So when you’re playing chess with the pope, well, good luck, because that means you’re taking a well-earned dump. The origin is from the middle of the 18th century and was probably meant to disrespect the pope himself. But no one’s really sure about why this became a thing. Probably because Icelanders secretly hate Catholics (we’re Lutherans), and we thought it was hilarious. Poop (and Pope) jokes always are.

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