Iceland vs. USA

This past week, a lot of people have been annoyed at Thorleifur and his posts. The sentiments seem to range from “troll” to “jerk.” Thor on the other hand has been trying to look innocent and saying. “Hey, I’m only asking a question.”

I’m surprised that such an intelligent crowd has made the connection Iceland – US. There is a big Air Force base, Keflavik, just outside of Reykjavik where most of the population of that godforsaken country lives. For decades there has been a lot of friction between the US personnel and the local population. The Icelanders in general mistrust and / or resent American in general and the resident Merkins in particular. Iceland has been a very closed country, to some extent Scandinavian, due to a common heritage, but at the same time isolated from most of the rest of the world, up until modern time. A country of fishermen guarding it’s old traditions (the Sagas – fairytales) and dwelling on there glorious past as “Vikings.”

Of course there is a cultural clash between this homogenous, tightly knitted community and the influx of Americana being delivered through the media, and made very real by the presence of the Air Force base. As in many other countries, the local population hates the Americans, but is at the same time envious of the wealth and lifestyle.

Not knowing Thor personally, I’ll not pass judgement on him and say that these are his reasons, however, they do match his writings pretty well, I think.

Also, as a side-note to Thor himself: If you use Microsoft products, and in particular Word 97, it includes a spellchecker not only for English, but even for American English, and a grammar check as well. Comes in handy.


Yeeks! I wonder what handy thinks about that!

Well UD, t’is not the first time & won’t be the last time. But just in case you wanted to know, no, that’s not what Im into :slight_smile:

Give some credit to Icelanders. I read that to get a job in Iceland, a native must have a high school degree and some certificate showing that s/he is fluent in three or four languages. How many native-born Americans are fluent in anything except English? Not many.

Also, I strongly suspect you will find a bit of resentment almost everywhere around the world where there is a U.S. military base–not just Iceland. It isn’t easy having the Army, Navy, or Air Force as neighbors, even though the United States does what it can to reduce friction.

Incidentally, where can I read Thorleifur’s posts? If he really is a jerk, I’ll use OpalCat’s Flame Generator.

“Interested in fashion, Harmonica?”
“There were three dusters like these waiting for a train.
Inside the dusters were three men. Inside the men were
three bullets…”
Once Upon A Time In The West

There is a new Icelander in our midsts. His name is Hoe, and he started the thread on Star Trek.
He doesn’t seem to be as anti-US as Thor, but he needs a spellchecker as well.

“[He] beat his fist down upon the table and hurt his hand and became so
further enraged… that he beat his fist down upon the table even harder and
hurt his hand some more.” – Joseph Heller’s Catch-22

Let’s look at the multilingual issue practically: whether it’s a “good” thing or not, the plain fact is there’s a lot less need for English-speakers to learn second, third… languages. I’m not getting into value judgements here, but it’s the second-most spoken language, and the first, Chinese, is highly focused in China, whereas English is very widely dispersed. It’s not difficult to get by in much of the world speaking just English. The same is not true of Icelandic, or all but a handful of other languages (I’d only include Spanish as another “world” language myself).

EJC wrote:

It’s in their own interest. We folks from small countries and small language-groups have to learn other languages. Not only, to be able to travel and do business and participate on Message Boards. But also to study. Many times it’s not practical to translate text-books at university level to (in my case) Swedish. Too few people will read the book, and so no publishing house will translate it and print it. We HAVE to learn English to be able to do higher studies in engineering or medicine.

We start with English at age 8. 2nd language (German/ French/Spanish) at 13. Fourth at 16 (choice of the three before and also Italian, Russian Japanese [at special schools]) For eager beavers classic latin and greek is also offered at sixteen, apart from the three others and Swedish.


From what I can gather, Icelandic women are all fabulous babes (Bjork notwithstanding). So they got that going for them.

If you folks haven’t gotten enough Iceland trashing (I liked it when I was there once) you can try using fake Icelandic:add “ur” to every word:Thorleifur wishur to covertur usur allur intur socialur democraturs. (I guess you need plurals, so urs?)

I have heard another thing about Iceland that maybe someone else can confirm. Supposedly, they are even sticklier than the French about keeping their language “pure.” Instead of adopting English words like “internet” or “fast food”, they will create an Icelandic equivalent using Icelandic words. Also, if you move to Reykjavik and want to become an Icelandic citizen, you must legally change your name to something in Icelandic. (Thorliefur Cunningham?) Can Thor or Hoe confirm this?

BTW, Dr. Evil–I have heard that some reports say that English has already surpassed Chinese as the world’s most spoken language. Others dispute this. I guess it depends on a) whom you are counting, b) how you are counting, and c) what degree of fluency you are looking for. If you are counting as English speakers people who are as fluent in English como yo soy en Español–you’re going to have a lot of people to count!

P.S. Maybe most Chinese speakers are in China, but there are a lot of Chinese ex-patriots around the globe. I remember reading that riots in Malaysia (or was it Indonesia) were primarily directed at Chinese merchants.

“Interested in fashion, Harmonica?”
“There were three dusters like these waiting for a train.
Inside the dusters were three men. Inside the men were
three bullets…”
Once Upon A Time In The West

Allrigt Cunningham. It’s true about the namechanging, until a short while ago. If your name is Edward, you would have to chnge it to something similar, like, Eðvarður, or Eiður. It’s ridiculus, but true.
They have changed it. So now you can move to Iceland and have your VERY OWN NAME. But if you become an Icelandic citizen you can’t name them John Cunningham. It’d have to be Jón Eðvarðsson.
Strange, Yes?

–But if you become an Icelandic citizen you can’t name them John Cunningham. –

I meant your children! :slight_smile:

Now, there’s a compliment for you.

Hey, they got a Hard Rock, don’t they?
All I wanna know is why Bjork wears blue jeans under her dress.
Wazzup with that, Icelanders?

On languages:

Chinese is not a language. In China there are many diferent languages, Mandarin being the biggest, but nowehre nearly as big as English.
One figure I’ve seen claims that 2 billion people speak English to some extent: Pidgin and Spanglish and English as a 2nd, 3rd or 4th language included, making it the the language moste widely used in the World.

However, the biggest language could be said to be Spanish. More people are now living and were born with Spanish as their first language, than any other.

I haven’t taken the time to research this, so it’s taken out of memory from a debate among linguists some 5 years ago, so feel free to rebut this.


Speaking of names and Iceland, I’ve always thought it was strange that Scandinavian names often end in -son. Edwardson, Ericson, Larson, Nelson, Peterson, which literally means son of Edward, son of Eric, and so on. I think it’s because when a family had a kid, they would take the father’s first name and add -son to the end of it. That’s may be ok for a boy, but it seems strange for a girl.

For example, I know women named Marla Peterson and Ursula Larson. Maybe they should be Marla Peterdaughter and Ursula Larsdaughter. Still, they would have their father’s first name and not their mother’s name, so it is still sexist. Actually, I did once meet a woman from Iceland whose named ended with daughter instead of son, or the icelandic version or it (dottir? I can’t remember exactly). I don’t know what name her husband used.

Up till about two centuries ago, Cheese Head, the style in most (if not all) Scandinavian countries was to do what Iceland still does today - take the name of the father and tack on “-son” or “-daughter” (or the local variant thereof). I’ve found some of my Swedish ancestral records on-line (very lucky break) and one of my distant grandmothers (b. 1810) was Britta Nilsdotter. More than likely as vital statistics records became more important to emerging state bureaucracies the standardization of surnames became more prevalent and we ended up with women taking the surnames ending in “-son”.
Iceland is the only Scandinavian country where surnames are not a fixed item. Children take the name of their father and tack on ‘-son’ or ‘-dottir’ and that’s their last name. So your Icelandic woman’s husband’s last name would have been “[fathersname]son”.
In a tiny island country like that it’s not too much of a mess as far as records are concerned, I guess.

Cave Diem! Carpe Canem!

A similar rule works in Russian middle names: Petrovich = son of Peter, Petrolova = daughter of Peter.

“Chinese is not a language.”
In the strictest technical definition, Chinese should not be considered a language, because the dialects are not all mutually intelligable. But Linguists (at least all the Linguists I’ve studied under and read over the course of the past 5 or 6 years) still call it a language, for some reason.

"A similar rule works in Russian middle names: Petrovich = son of Peter, Petrolova =daughter of Peter. "
I’m just being a smart ass here, but the feminine partonymic of Pyotr is actually Petrovna.

My favorite patronymic is the daughter of Ilya - Ilinichna. Way to stretch out a name! Melatonin’s right, by the way - it’s Petrovna. Ne sprosite mne, otkuda ia znaiu - eto gosudarstvennyi sekret :wink:

Cave Diem! Carpe Canem!

It goes for Spanish names too:
Rodriguez = son of Rodrigo
Gonzalez = son of Gonzalo
Dominguez … Domingo.

And you Americans got all the straight dope right on the Scandinavian names.

Actually the trend over the past 50 or so years has been to change any name ending in -sson (the first s being the genitive, usually dropped when people moved to the States). There are just too many people with the same name: My town is 250.000+ people. There are 50 Sven Johansson in the phonebook, and and 9 full pages of Johanssons.