From Iceland — English Words As Slang Doubles Among Icelandic Youth Over Past 20 Years

English Words As Slang Doubles Among Icelandic Youth Over Past 20 Years

Published January 25, 2021

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Timothée Lambrecq

In a masters thesis written by Icelandic specialist Ragnheiður Jónsdóttir, she discloses that the use of English words as slang by young Icelanders has been on the rise, RÚV reports. She is nonetheless not worried about the future of the Icelandic language.

By her research, in a paper entitled “Fáðu þér eina smellý og chillaðu broski” (“Have yourself a smelly and chill, broski”), she estimates that the number of English words being used as slang by young Icelanders has doubled over the past 20 years. The explanations for this trend are based in large part on the media which Icelandic youth consume.

“These words have greatly increased,” she says. “There are a lot more English words in the slang vocabulary of young people today and it has in fact doubled. English is naturally predominant in mainstream culture popular with young people; in television shows, movies, music and so forth.”

While some of these English slang words are adopted unchanged, such as bae, others are slightly Icelandicised, such is the case with “að chilla” (to chill, chilling) or “að dm-a” (to DM someone). As slang tends to be an ephemeral thing, it is unclear how long lasting these words will be in everyday Icelandic speech.

“It seems to be, as has often been the case, that people in general are worried about youth and Icelandic, that we’re ruining Icelandic,” she says. “I’m not sure that we need to be more worried about it now than before.”

RÚV spoke with several people at Kringlan shopping centre for their take on the matter. While older people were in general more worried about the future of Icelandic than younger people, at least one interviewee—who appeared to be well into their middle age—said he had no worries about the future of Icelandic, as this is just something young people do with their speech, and has always been the case.

Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.

You can also check out our shop, loaded with books, apparel and other cool merch, that you can buy and have delivered right to your door.

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

Show Me More!