Imago lacus

The picture above was taken by a dear friend, the American poet Debra Kang Dean (please do not use it without permission). I met Debra three years before, when I went to Walden to work with his late husband Brad, a great Thoreau scholar. Once we spent hours tracking this quotation: "Some men go fishing all their lives without ever realizing it's not fish they are after." We concluded that Thoreau never wrote it, but si non è vero...

Monday, April 29, 2013

How to say "idiot" in Icelandic

I don’t think most Icelanders realize to what extent those unwritten rules and standards govern their lives. Which I guess is normal – much in the way fish don’t know they’re wet. There is a collective need in Iceland to stand together and not rock the boat – something that is largely unconscious and which has served the Icelanders well throughout the ages, when people’s very survival de - pended on everyone doing just that. It also provides a sense of comfort and security that is good in many ways. There is something inherently good and lovely in many of the tradi - tions and cultural norms that prevail, like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket. But, like many other sources of comfort, there is a line you can cross, and when you do those things suddenly become limiting and even oppressive.

Yet while most Icelanders do not realize the impact of all those unwritten rules upon their lives, they do recognize the value of going abroad to live for a longer or shorter period. Indeed, the Icelandic word for “stupid” is heimskur, which is derived from the word heima, or “home”. The person who is heimskur is the person who has not left home.

Alda Sigmundsdóttir
The Little Book of Icelanders

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