The Poet Who Traveled the U.S. Speaking Only Faroese


There is a tiny cluster of islands in the sea between Norway and Iceland where sheep roam green meadows, puffins swoop over, in, and out of fjords, and people speak a language close to the Old Norse spoken there by Viking settlers 1000 years ago: Faroese. The Faroe Islands is a self-governing nation that is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, and while Danish (as well as English) is a common second language for the inhabitants, not everyone speaks it. Or at least Steinbjørn Jacobsen didn’t. He was a poet, author, and agitator for secession from Denmark who spoke and wrote in nothing other than Faroese. So in 1978, when the U.S. State Department brought him over for a tour (something they did then with various political activists in order to win them over in case they needed them later), they found themselves in a bind when trying to get him an interpreter.

They called on Eric Wilson, who spoke no Faroese but had studied Old Icelandic, and whose essay (from the New England Review, posted at LitHub) about the experience of escorting the poet around the U.S. is a gripping and hilarious tale of communication and miscommunication with university professors in fancy offices, coal miners’ sons in Appalachia, Latino farm workers in California, and hikers in the Grand Canyon, all filtered through layers of historical Nordic linguistics. This is how they first meet:

I knocked loudly, but there was no response. Reluctantly I let myself in. The air conditioning had been set at arctic. The floor was littered with tiny liquor bottles from the mini-fridge, as well as wrappers from Oreo cookies, Mars Bars, and Snickers. In a corner I saw a figure slumped down on the floor, leaning back against a wall, apparently sound asleep. All he was wearing was a colorful pair of paisley Faeroese skivvies.

I knelt down and shook his knee; slowly he opened his eyes. They were an amazingly piercing blue, but at this point too bleary to pierce much of anything. I told him my name and that I would now be his escort-interpreter. I was here; I would stay with him. I said this in my dodgy Danish, which he didn’t appear to understand. I tried again, pronouncing all the Danish sounds that are normally slurred or silent. Finally I sensed he was absorbing what I was saying.

Pulling him up by both hands, I was able to get him to his feet. I was surprised at how short he was. As he tried to bring me into focus, his eyes filled with tears. I put my hands on his shoulders, trying to steady him. I wasn’t ready for any of this. Although this assignment still seemed preferable to KATKINS für die Katze, I knew I was out of my depth.

Trying to keep him upright, I asked if he wanted something to eat. I used the Danish word “spise” and then the Swedish word “äta,” miming lifting a spoon out of an invisible bowl. He shook his head no. I heard “sove” as he mimed tilting his head down into his folded hands. So I led him into the bedroom.

I watched him crawl onto the rumpled unmade bed. Then, lying on his back, he stared up at me and broke into a smile before he closed his eyes. He didn’t say goodnight. All he said before he fell asleep was, “Eiríkur.” My name in Faeroese.

My instincts told me to call State immediately and tell them I couldn’t do this. But then they had already been stranded once. And I had given them my word.

Many more liquor bottles are emptied and many more communication barriers are broken—or at least peered over—before the end of the trip. Read the rest of the crazy story at LitHub.

Sploot 101: 12 Animal Slang Words Every Pet Parent Should Know

For centuries, dogs were dogs and cats were cats. They did things like bark and drink water and lay down—actions that pet parents didn’t need a translator to understand.

Then the internet arrived. Scroll through the countless Facebook groups and Twitter accounts dedicated to sharing cute animal pictures and you’ll quickly see that dogs don’t have snouts, they have snoots, and cats come in a colorful assortment of shapes and sizes ranging from smol to floof.

Pet meme language has been around long enough to start leaking into everyday conversation. If you're a pet owner (or lover) who doesn’t want to be out of the loop, here are the terms you need to know.


You know your pet is fully relaxed when they’re doing a sploot. Like a split but for the whole body, a sploot occurs when a dog or cat stretches so their bellies are flat on the ground and their back legs are pointing behind them. The amusing pose may be a way for them to take advantage of the cool ground on a hot day, or just to feel a satisfying stretch in their hip flexors. Corgis are famous for the sploot, but any quadruped can do it if they’re flexible enough.


Person holding Marnie the dog.
Emma McIntyre, Getty Images for ASPCA

Unlike most items on this list, the word derp isn’t limited to cats and dogs. It can also be a stand-in for such expressions of stupidity as “duh” or “dur.” In recent years the term has become associated with clumsy, clueless, or silly-looking cats and dogs. A pet with a tongue perpetually hanging out of its mouth, like Marnie or Lil Bub, is textbook derpy.


Cat laying on desk chair.
PoppetCloset, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you’ve ever caught a cat or dog poking the tip of its tongue past its front teeth, you’ve seen a blep in action. Unlike a derpy tongue, a blep is subtle and often gone as quickly as it appears. Animal experts aren’t entirely sure why pets blep, but in cats it may have something to do with the Flehmen response, in which they use their tongues to “smell” the air.


Mlems and bleps, though very closely related, aren’t exactly the same. While blep is a passive state of being, mlem is active. It’s what happens when a pet flicks its tongue in and out of its mouth, whether to slurp up water, taste food, or just lick the air in a derpy fashion. Dogs and cats do it, of course, but reptiles have also been known to mlem.


Very fluffy cat.
J. Sibiga Photography, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Some pets barely have any fur, and others have coats so voluminous that hair appears to make up most of their bodyweight. Dogs and cats in the latter group are known as floofs. Floofy animals will famously leave a wake of fur wherever they sit and can squeeze through tight spaces despite their enormous mass. Samoyeds, Pomeranians, and Persian cats are all prime examples of floofs.


Dog outside barking.

According to some corners of the internet, dogs don’t bark, they bork. Listen carefully next time you’re around a vocal doggo and you won’t be able to unhear it.


Shiba inu smiling up at the camera.

Speaking of doggos: This word isn’t hard to decode. Every dog—regardless of size, floofiness, or derpiness—can be a doggo. If you’re willing to get creative, the word can even be applied to non-dog animals like fennec foxes (special doggos) or seals (water doggos). The usage of doggo saw a spike in 2016 thanks to the internet and by the end of 2017 it was listed as one of Merriam-Webster’s “Words We’re Watching.”


Tiny kitten in grass.

Some pets are so adorably, unbearably tiny that using proper English to describe them just doesn’t cut it. Not every small pet is smol: To earn the label, a cat or dog (or kitten or puppy) must excel in both the tiny and cute departments. A pet that’s truly smol is likely to induce excited squees from everyone around it.


Hands holding a puppy.

Like doggo, pupper is self-explanatory: It can be used in place of the word puppy, but if you want to use it to describe a fully-grown doggo who’s particularly smol and cute, you can probably get away with it.

10. BOOF

We’ve already established that doggos go bork, but that’s not the only sound they make. A low, deep bark—perhaps from a dog that can’t decide if it wants to expend its energy on a full bark—is best described as a boof. Consider a boof a warning bark before the real thing.


Dog noses poking out beneath blanket.

Snoot was already a dictionary-official synonym for nose by the time dog meme culture took the internet by storm. But while snoot is rarely used to describe human faces today, it’s quickly becoming the preferred term for pet snouts. There’s even a wholesome viral challenge dedicated to dogs poking their snoots through their owners' hands.

12. BOOP

Have you ever seen a dog snoot so cute you just had to reach out and tap it? And when you did, was your action accompanied by an involuntary “boop” sound? This urge is so universal that boop is now its own verb. Humans aren’t the only ones who can boop: Search the word on YouTube and treat yourself to hours of dogs, cats, and other animals exchanging the love tap.

From Camreigh to Kayzleigh: Parents Invented More Than 1000 New Baby Names Last Year

Look out Mercedes, Bentley, and Royce—there's a new car-inspired name in town. The name Camreigh was recorded for the first time in the U.S. last year, according to Quartz’s take on data released by the U.S. Social Security Administration.

The name was given to 91 babies in 2017, making it the most popular of the 1100 brand-new names that cropped up last year. However, the Social Security Administration only listed names that had been given to at least five babies in 2017, so it's possible that some of the names had been invented before 2017.

An alternate spelling, Kamreigh, also appeared for the first time last year, as did Brexleigh, Kayzleigh, Addleigh, Iveigh, Lakeleigh, and Riverleigh. Swapping out “-y” and “-ey” for “-eigh” at the end of a name has been a growing trend in recent years, and in 20 years or so, the workforce will be filled with Ryleighs, Everleighs, and Charleighs—names that all appeared on a list of the 500 most popular names in 2017.

Following Camreigh, the second most popular new name, appearing 58 times, was Asahd. Meaning “lion” in Arabic, Asahd was popularized in 2016 when DJ Khaled gave his son the name. The American DJ is now attempting to trademark the moniker, which is an alternate spelling of Asad and Assad.

Other names that were introduced for the first time include Iretomiwa (of Nigerian origin) and Tewodros (Ethiopian). The name Arjunreddy (given 12 times) possibly stems from the 2017 release of the Indian, Telugu-language film Arjun Reddy, whose title character is a surgeon who spirals out of control when he turns to alcohol and drugs.

Perhaps an even bigger surprise is the fact that 11 babies were named Cersei in 2017, or, as Quartz puts it, "11 fresh-faced, sinless babies were named after the manipulative, power-hungry, incestuous, helicopter parent-y, backstabbing character from Game of Thrones."

Below are the top 20 most popular new names in 2017.

1. Camreigh
2. Asahd
3. Taishmara
4. Kashdon
5. Teylie
6. Kassian
7. Kior
8. Aaleiya
9. Kamreigh
10. Draxler
11. Ikeni
12. Noctis
13. Sayyora
14. Mohana
15. Dakston
16. Knoxlee
17. Amunra
18. Arjunreddy
19. Irtaza
20. Ledgen

[h/t Quartz]


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