56 Words and Counting for Wind in Icelandic

An illustration of the Norse god Njörðr, from an Icelandic 17th century manuscript. A scan of a black and white photography. Image via Wikimedia Commons, via the Skaldic Project: http://abdn.ac.uk/skaldic/db.php

Another post for my weather-beset friends in the U.S., this time in the form of an Iceland Review article called “Counting Icelandic Words for Wind.” The author, Jóhannes Benediktsson, makes the claim that of the many forms of intense weather in Iceland, it is wind that is perhaps the most defining, and therefore the most in need of many vocab words. (Like that whole “100 innuit words for snow story hat everyone’s heard.) Wind, Jóhannes says, “has been a very dominating factor for every generation of Icelanders since the Vikings settled here.

“For example, using an umbrella make no sense to Icelanders. It doesn’t shield you at all from the horizontal rain and gets inverted too easily.

Not to mention how important wind is to fishermen—the main export of Iceland since the 14th century is fish. Everything revolved around the sea.”

I’ve lived here for just about two months exactly now (whoot x2) and I have to agree with the wind assessment. It is super intense here. The post includes a list of Icelandic words for wind–all very specific kinds of wind, naturally–and Jóhannes comes up with 56.

Fárviðri,” (hurricane force wind) seems like a good start for describing Sandy, but I’m not sure which of his more specific vocab words might apply to “Frankenstorm.”


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