From Iceland — Letters


Published July 11, 2001


Dear Grapevine,
Greetings from an Alaskan, here cycling through Iceland for two months. Upon my arrival in Reykjavik I happened to pick up a copy of the first edition of Grapevine. After the Independence Day festivities and dancing in the rain, I retreated to my cozy tent and had a look at your publication. Not only did it have the answers to several questions I had been pondering, but I found myself laughing out loud at least a dozen times! It had everything a keen visitor such as myself would want — cultural and natural history, a bit of politics, music and film news and even an explanation of why getting smashed is a favorite pastime. I can hardly wait to find a copy of the second edition (no one here in Húsavik has heard of it, might I find one in Akureyi?) Anyway, thank you so much for providing this little gem — I enjoyed every word. I have cycled nearly halfway around the island already (gotta love those killer tailwinds…) and have found the people to be friendly and helpful. Looking forward to exploring the north coast.
Suzanne Greenwood
Homer, Alaska
God bless you too. Hope you survive your trip, and that you´ll continue to find these little pockets of civilisation that carry Grapevine.
Hi There,
Nice paper!!! It is great to have an English paper for those of us that just can’t get the language or any language except the one we were forced to learn as kids. Luckily my brain was in better condition back then.
I would suspect there are some traditionalists in Iceland that are not too keen on you producing an English paper? They have a tendency to want to keep what they have as is without outsiders spoiling things, especially like promoting a foreign language in their country.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Michael Parks
Alas, Grapevine´s deterorating brain has deprived it of the ability to speak Icelandic, so we´re all in the same boat.
Hi again,
I have 2 funny stories about foreigners trying to learn Icelandic.
I am NOT making these up. They really happened to people I know.
1. There was an Irishman who moved to Iceland around Christmas time one year. Everyone was saying “Gleðileg jól” to him and no matter how hard he tried to make his tongue say those words he could not produce anything comprehensible.So he sat and thought about it for a long while, trying desperately to come up with an English word or words which would sound “close enough” so that there wasn’t an awkward silence when people wished him a merry Christmas in Icelandic. Finally, triumphantly, he came up with 2 words which did the trick:.”Jelly roll” he said to one and all and everyone said “Gleðileg jól” right back in his face. For several years this bloke was known to many of us in the foreign community as Jelly Roll.
2. Two British sisters married Icelandic men and moved to Iceland. When their mother died, their aging father moved to Iceland to be near his daughters. He lived in Seyðisfjörður with one daughter and was sending a package to the other daughter in the Westmann Islands. The old fellow was very sincere and dedicated to learning Icelandic and carried a pocket dictionary with him at all times to look up the words he needed. When the package he had mailed to his daughter in the Westmann Islands arrived, there was a carefully printed notice on the wrapping paper which read “Handfang hjá umsjón”. We can only imagine how flummoxed and mystified the postal workers in both Seyðisfjörður and the Westmann Islands were when they read this cryptic message which was the old man’s attempt at writing “Handle With Care” in Icelandic.
If I come up with any bright new ideas for future issues, you can be sure that I’ll let you know immediately, if not sooner.
Well, thanks to Grapevine, no one need attempt learn Icelandic again.
God is great.

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