From Iceland — Hands up: who knows what Isthmus is?

Hands up: who knows what Isthmus is?

Published October 8, 2004

Hands up: who knows what Isthmus is?

My copy is well worn – it was published in 1988. I often scan through it with the hope of picking up some new words. I never thought this wee dictionary would have me increasing my English vocabulary as well:

“Isthmus (eiði; grandi): A narrow strip of land connecting two larger masses of land. A narrow strip of tissue joining two larger organs or parts of an organ. A narrow passage connecting two larger cavities.”

Stimulates one to ponder who has made the usage of this word so common that it has a place in the condensed dictionary? What do you think? Is it the fishing industry, geography professors, doctors or map makers?

I came across the word misogynist (kvenhatari) and can’t ever say I’ve used it in conversation before. “Male chauvinist pig” is usually what slips out of my mouth. I checked if they had that, but they didn’t. I thoroughly scanned the dictionary and just couldn’t find the female equivalent to misogynist. What does that tell us? A gap in the language in relation to women’ female voices shrill! One would think the word misogamist (a hater of marriage) would have priority in the dictionary, but nope…
The word pyromaniac (brennvargur) had me doubting the book had as little space as it boasted. I personally would have just gone with a more general word like “arsonist” but it is nowhere to be found in the Icelandic section.
There’s a bit of slang included, making it a friendly sort of dictionary. Ha is in there, offering: what; pardon for the translation. Actually with different tones and accentuations the two letter word can have quite a few varied meanings. Bobby and cop are in there as lögga (police). Must admit I was rather amused to find the words Hashish (hass) and Cocaine (Kókaín) squeezed into the diminutive dictionary. So much for “restricted space”. Iceland must be having overseas help with the anti drug squad. Heroin and opium obviously haven’t worked their ways to our volcanic shores since they aren’t included.
Brimbrjótur was translated as mole or pier in English. It caught my attention as being odd so I looked up both words in the English section. Hafnargarður, pier and moldvarpa, mole were what I found, but no signs of Brimbrjótur. So maybe there was a bit too much “free 70s feeling” going around when the B section of the dictionary was being compiled. Still don’t know what Brimbrjótur is.

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!

Enough. Stop. Now.

Enough. Stop. Now.


Show Me More!