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.

23 Notoriously Unrhymable Words (That Actually Have Rhymes)

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iStock.com/MeXaHuK

You’ll no doubt have heard the old fact that nothing rhymes with orange. But in fact, the English surname Gorringe—as in Henry Honeychurch Gorringe, captain of the USS Gettysburg—rhymes with orange. And so does Blorenge, the name of a hill in south Wales. But even if proper nouns like surnames and place names are excluded, that still leaves sporange, an obscure name for the sporangium, which is the part of a plant that produces its spores. So although it might all depend on your accent, on how obscure a word you’re willing to accept, and on precisely where the stress falls in the word (because sporange can either rhyme with orange or be pronounced “spuh-ranj”), it seems there actually is a rhyme for orange.

In fact, despite often finding their way onto lists of notoriously unrhymable words, all of the words listed here do have rhymes in English—just so long as bizarre dialect words and obscure scientific jargon are allowed.

1. Acrid rhymes with epacrid (in some pronunciations), a name for any plant of the genus Epacris, most of which are found in Australia.

2. Angst partially rhymes with both phalanxed, meaning “arranged in rows,” and thanksed, an old word meaning “given thanks to.”

3. Beige is pronounced so that it sounds more like the first syllable of Asia than it does similarly spelled words like age, gauge, stage, and rage. But that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of a rhyme; there’s also greige, the name for the dull color of undyed fabric.

4. Bulb rhymes with culb, an obscure 17th century word for a retort or a barbed reply.

5. Chaos rhymes with naos, a name for the innermost part of a Greek temple, and speos, an Egyptian tomb built into a cave.

6. Circle rhymes with hurkle, an old dialect word meaning “to pull your arms and legs in towards your body,” as well as both heterocercal and homocercal, two zoological terms describing the tails of fish that are either asymmetrical or symmetrical, respectively.

7. Circus has a homophone, cercus, which is the name of a bodily appendage found on certain insects, and so rhymes with cysticercus, another name for a tapeworm larva. If that’s too obscure, why not try rhyming it with murcous—a 17th century word meaning “lacking a thumb.”

8. Concierge is a direct borrowing from French, so the number of English words it can rhyme with is already limited. But there is demi-vierge, another French loanword used as an old-fashioned name for a unchaste young woman—or, as Merriam-Webster explains, “a girl … who engages in lewd or suggestive speech and usually promiscuous petting but retains her virginity.” It literally means “half-virgin.”

9. Dunce rhymes with punce, a dialect word for flattened, pounded meat, or for a sudden hard kick, among other definitions.

10. False rhymes with valse, which is an alternative name for a waltz, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

11. Film rhymes with pilm, an old southern English word for dust or fine powder.

12. Filth rhymes with both spilth, which is the quantity lost when a drink is spilled (or the spilling itself), and tilth, meaning hard work or labor.

13. Gouge rhymes with scrouge, which means “to crowd or crush together.” In 19th century college slang, a scrouge was also a long, dull, or arduous lesson or piece of work.

14. Gulf rhymes with both sulf, which is another name for toadflax plants, and culf, an old southwest English word for the loose feathers that come out of pillows and cushions.

15. Music rhymes with both ageusic and dysgeusia, both of which are medical words describing a total lack of or minor malfunction in a person’s sense of taste, respectively.

16. Purple rhymes with hirple, meaning “to limp” or “walk awkwardly,” and curple, an old Scots word for a leather strap that goes beneath the tail of a horse to secure its saddle (it also more broadly means "buttocks").

17. Replenish rhymes with both displenish, which means “to remove furniture,” and Rhenish, meaning “relating to the river Rhine.”

18. Rhythm rhymes with the English place name Lytham as well as smitham, an old word for fine malt dust or powdered lead ore.

19. Silver, after purple and orange, is the third of three English colors supposedly without rhymes. But there is chilver, an old dialect word for a ewe lamb.

20. Wasp rhymes with both cosp, a hasp for fastening a door or gate, and knosp, an architectural ornament resembling the bud of a tree.

21. Width rhymes with sidth, an English dialect word variously used for the length, depth, or breadth of something—or literally the length of one side.

22. Window rhymes with tamarindo, a Spanish-American drink made of boiled and sweetened tamarind fruit.

23. Women rhymes with both timon, an old word for the rudder of a ship, and dimmen, meaning “to grow dim” or “to set like the sun.” Woman, however, has no rhyme at all. (Apparently.)

A version of this list first ran in 2015.

100 Words Turning 100 This Year

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YouTube

In 1919, just a few months after World War I came to an end, the phrase World War 2 made its debut. The Oxford English Dictionary described it as "a reference to an imagined future war arising out of the social upheaval consequent upon the First World War." Twenty years later, the event wouldn't seem so imaginary.

Join editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy as she journeys into the past to dig up a whopping 100 words that are turning 100 this year in our all-new Mental Floss List Show. Whip out your OED and read along as you check out the full episode below.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here!

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