11 Delightful Icelandic Words and Phrases

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Hunting for new ways to express yourself that don't involve emojis? Look no further than these charming words and phrases hailing from the land of fire and ice.

1. "I COME COMPLETELY FROM THE MOUNTAINS."

Ég kem alveg af fjöllum. This phrase throws some shade at mountain dwellers, and means, “I have no idea what you’re talking about/what’s going on.”

2. "I WILL FIND OUT YOU ON A BEACH."

Ég mun finna þig í fjöru. If you're Icelandic, beware of the beach: This idiom (or threat) means, “I will get back at you,” “I’ll get my revenge,” or “Don’t make me hurt you.”

3. RATlLJÓST

If you ever need to find your way out of a cave, or just navigate to the kitchen in the middle of the night to snack on some hangikjöt, this word will come in handy—it basically translates to “enough light to navigate.”

4. GLUGGAVEÐUR

This word gets a lot of traction in Iceland: It means “window-weather.” As in, the kind of weather that’s nice to look at, but not experience.

5. "THEY SPLASH THE SKYR WHO OWN IT."

Þeir sletta skyrinu sem eiga það. Skyr is an Icelandic yogurt-like dairy product and it’s been used for sustenance as well as ammunition for years. This saying is analogous to “people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.” It’s used ironically when referencing people who think they can do anything just because they have money.

6. "THERE ARE SO MANY WONDERS IN A COW'S HEAD."

Það eru margar undur í höfuðkúpu. You might find occasion to say this anytime something strange or amazing happens. As an added bonus, it's much more elegant-sounding than “Man, the world is nutso.”

7. "TO LAY YOUR HEAD IN WATER."

Að leggja höfuðið í bleyti. While “on a pillow” might be the more logical place to rest your head, this phrase suggests you put it in water to soak when you need to spend some time working something out or coming up with a new idea. This is kind of like saying, "sleep on it."

8. "THE RAISIN AT THE END OF THE SAUSAGE."

Rúsínan í pylsuendanum. English speakers might say that a good and surprising thing that happens in addition to something that’s already awesome is a cherry on top of a sundae or the icing on top of the cake. The raisin at the end of a sausage expresses the same thought—it's a nice supplement to an already wonderful treat. Or something.

9. "NO MITTEN-GRABBING/MITTEN-TAKES."

Nú duga engin vettlingatök. When you want something done carefully and properly, this is the phrase to use.

10. "ON WITH THE BUTTER!"

Áfram með smjörið. One of Tim Gunn’s favorite phrases, “Carry on,” directly channels this Nordic saying. Keep doing what you’re doing, forge ahead, keep on keepin' on, get to work, keep moving—any of these could work on Project Runway, but “on with the butter” is definitely the catchiest.

11. VAÐLAHEIÐARVEGAVINNUVERKFÆRAGEYMSLUSKÚRAÚTIDYRALYKLAKIPPUHRINGUR

Yep, this is a word, and it means "key ring of the key chain of the outer door to the storage tool shed of the road workers on the Vaðlaheiði" from which you might be able to glean that it’s largely (OK, pretty much entirely) for show. (Go ahead—try to use it in a sentence.) The Icelandic language has a reputation for lengthy words, and this one is one of the longest of them all. Others include landbúnaðarframleiðsla, hæstaréttarmálaflutningsmaður, fjárfestingarfyrirtæki, and byggingarverkfræðingur.

This piece originally ran in 2015.

What's the Difference Between a College and a University?

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Chinnapong/iStock via Getty Images

Going off to college is a milestone in any young adult’s life. The phrase itself conjures up images of newfound independence, exposure to new perspectives, knowledge, and possibly even one or more sips of alcohol.

In America, however, few people use the phrase “going off to university,” or “headed to university,” even if they are indeed about to set off for, say, Harvard University. Why did college become the predominant term for postsecondary education? And is there any difference between the two institutions?

While university appears to be the older of the two terms, dating as far back as the 13th century, schools and students in North America have embraced college to describe most places of higher learning. There is no rigid definition of the words, but there are some general attributes for each. A college is typically a four-year school that offers undergraduate degrees like an associate or a bachelor’s. (Community colleges are often two-year schools.) They don’t typically offer master’s or doctorates, and the size of their student body is typically the smaller of the two.

Universities, on the other hand, tend to offer both undergraduate and graduate programs leading to advanced degrees for a larger group of students. They can also be comprised of several schools—referred to as colleges—under their umbrella. A university could offer both a school of arts and sciences and a school of business. The University of Michigan has a College of Engineering, for example.

While many of these traits are common, they’re not guaranteed. Some colleges can be bigger than universities, some might offer master’s degrees, and so on. To complicate matters further, an institution that fits the criteria of a university might choose to call itself a college. Both Dartmouth College and Boston College qualify as universities but use the college label owing to tradition. Schools may begin as colleges, grow into universities, but retain the original name.

People tend to think of a university as being more prestigious or harder to get into, but there are too many variables to make that determination at a glance. Some colleges might ask more of applicants than universities. Some universities might be smaller than certain colleges. Either one can be public or private.

Things get a little more convoluted abroad. In the UK, students go off to university (or uni) instead of college. The British version of college is typically a two-year program where students either focus on learning one particular skill set (much like a vocational school) or use the time to prepare for exams so that they can advance to university. Language matters, too; in Spanish, colegio usually refers to high school.

While the terms aren’t strictly interchangeable, there is enough of a difference between the two to try and make the distinction. Keep in mind that some states, like New Jersey, have rules about how institutions label themselves. There, a university has to have at least three fields of graduate study leading to advanced degrees.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

9 French Insults You Should Know

Rawf8/iStock via Getty Images
Rawf8/iStock via Getty Images

Ah, France—internationally synonymous with fine wines, fashion, and elegant cheeses. As it turns out, the country is home to some pretty fine insults, too, as the list below demonstrates. If you need some more ways to express your distaste in a foreign language, we've also got you covered with insults in German. (If historical insults are more your speed, you can peruse these old English insults, or learn how to level a sick burn like Teddy Roosevelt.)

1. Va te faire cuire un oeuf // "Go cook yourself an egg."

Figuratively speaking, this means “leave me alone.” Historically, the idea is that men would criticize their wives cooking dinner, who would then respond, "Go fry yourself an egg"—reminding their mates that they're incapable of cooking anything other than an egg.

2. Bête comme ses pieds // "You are as stupid as your feet."

The feet are the furthest part of the body from the brain, so supposedly, the most stupid. Besides, have you ever seen smart feet?

3. Péter plus haut de son cul // "To fart higher than your ass."

If you have gas in your stomach and try to expel it above your behind, you will fail. It's just too ambitious. This phrase means that a person is arrogant, or thinks they are able to do impossible things. They're a show-off, basically.

4. Poule mouillée // "Wet chicken"

Chickens are not known for their bravery. Especially when it rains, they try to hide, as ridiculous as that may be. A wet chicken is someone who is afraid of everything.

5. Mange tes morts // "Eat your dead."

You use this insult when you are very mad at someone. The original meaning is "You have no respect." It's said to have started among the Yenish people—a European ethnic minority with nomadic origins.

6. Sac à merde // "Bag of sh**"

No need for explanation right? Speaks for itself. Often used while driving.

7. Tête de noed // "Knot face"

Someone stupid. Literally, the knot refers to the tip of the penis, but in essence the term has a meaning similar to (but even ruder) than the English dickhead.

8. Couillon/Couillonne // "Little testicle"

A relatively mild insult that means something like "idiot" in English.

9. Con comme une valise sans poignée // "As stupid as a suitcase without a handle."

What good is a suitcase if you can't carry it? In a similar vein, "con comme un balais" means "as dumb as a broom."

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