Icelandic idioms

Here are some useful phrases.

  • Ungi maðurinn þekkir reglurnar, en gamli maðurinn þekkir undantekningarnar.
    “The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.”
  • Nú duga engin vettlingatök.
    “No more mitten-takes.” — used for: Do it right this time.
  • Ég kem alveg af fjöllum.
    “I come completely from mountains” — used for: I have no idea what is going on
  • Ég mun finna þig í fjöru
    “I will find you on a beach” — used for: Don’t make me hurt you. Sort of.
  • Að koma einhverjum fyrir kattarnef
    “To put someone before a cats nose.” — used for: Putting someone in the spotlight, but slightly more dangerous.
  • Ég borga bara með reiðufé
    “I only pay with an angry sheep” — used for: Okay, but I don’t have to like it.

Edited to add: I put in rough ideas of how one would use these phrases

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8 Responses

  1. Phyllis Irene Radford

    My s-i-l will be in Iceland for 6 months starting January 1. She’s doing research on a Fullbright and really looking forward to getting back into the field after 5 years as a dean. She loves Iceland.

  2. Mary Robinette Kowal

    Brian: I added rough meanings to them, instead of just translations.

    Irene: Iceland is fantastic. If it weren’t this wouldn’t even be a discussion. We haven’t even been here for two months yet.

  3. Brian Dolton

    Thanks for the idiomatic translations.

    I’d love to go to Iceland sometime, I must admit. To actually see places like Thingvellir and the settings for all the sagas (I have many sagas…) would be very, very cool.

  4. Brian Dolton

    You forget; I’m in the UK. Therefore Iceland is merely very expensive, rather than frighteningly expensive. It makes it a “long weekend” kind of option in late spring or early autumn. Maybe next year…