…I was deleting some photos from my laptop yesterday and found one that I took of a page from Iceland Air’s in-flight magazine on the way to Reykjavik. On the page were a bunch of facts about the Icelandic language. At the time, I thought I would share some of them when I posted my Iceland pictures, but by the time I got around to that, I had forgotten about it.
With the passage of almost a year, there’s only one fact on the page that I still find interesting. And I just realized that coincidentally, it is a fact about a kenning, whose definition — a compound word with a metaphorical meaning — I just learned.
“Icelanders have selected their favorite word in a national referendum: Ljósmóðir (literally, ‘mother of light’) is the Icelandic word for midwife.”
Isn’t that such a beautiful word and a beautiful sentiment? It reminds me of the Spanish phrase for “to give birth”: dar a luz (give to light), which I only know because I spotted it on a sign in a hospital waiting room.
It would make sense that Icelandic would be kenning-heavy, since kennings originated in Old Norse (and Old English), a precursor to Icelandic. And according to Wikipedia, “Since the written language has not changed much, Icelanders are able to read classic Old Norse literature created in the 10th through 13th centuries with relative ease.”
I’m not sure whether this counts as a kenning, but I also just discovered this Icelandic word that I love: gluggaveður, which means window-weather (weather = glugga; window = veður). It refers to “weather that is nice to look at through a window, but not nice to be out in.”
Oh words, you delightful poetic things!