Um…so…like, Hikorð…

Every language has filler words, little “crutches” (as they called them in the Toastmaster’s speech group I was briefly in in middle school) which pop out of your mouth when you’re thinking about what to say next or talking really fast. Icelandic has a lot of these “hikorð” too, and they were recently the subject of a short segment of the TV show “Orðbragd,” (meaning “word choice”) which is, I believe, entirely dedicated to language. (I can’t seem to embed the video here, so follow the link above to watch it.)

Obviously, if you aren’t accustomed to hearing Icelandic, it can be difficult to differentiate the “hikorð” from the other words, so here’s what to keep an ear out for:

  • hérna: here
  • sko: so…look…
  • jæja: yes, yes (see the explanation on the lower half of the page here)
  • heyrðu: listen

Just to get you started, too: in the news excerpt they show, the newscaster says, “Heyrðu, gott kvöld. Heyrðu…” (“Listen, Good Evening. Listen.”) and then follows with many “hérnas” and “skos.”


5 thoughts on “Um…so…like, Hikorð…

  1. I think those are really dangerous for learners of foreign languages. Once you know they exist, you might be tempted to hérna use them every time you hérna look for the next word or correct hérna hérna declension. I have a friend who moved to the US and for the next two years she was all “you know” until she finally spoke English well enough and let her favorite hikorð drop.

    • Funny that you say this, Tanja, since the host actually says at the end of the segment that he thinks that hikorð can be helpful for people with stutters (I think that is what he said, at least) and foreigners learning Icelandic (I know I heard that part right).

      I personally agree that it’s probably not best to try to incorporate such hikorð into your regular speech as a language-learner, but on the other hand, having an Icelandic filler word to fall back on when you are trying to think of what to say can be helpful. For instance, it kind of cues the person that you are talking to that you know enough conversational Icelandic that he/she doesn’t need to automatically switch over to English. Sort of like when I learned to say “ha?” to people when I didn’t understand, instead of “What?” or “huh?” or other Englishy-sounding question words.

      Another thing is that it is just really helpful to be aware of them, so that as a listener, you understand that those filler words aren’t part of a thought you have to decipher, they are just something that you can ignore and skip over.

      • I understood something about stuttering too so we might be right about that. 🙂

        You’re right too that the occasional hikorð might be helpful, as long as you are aware of them and don’t go overboard. Just as with chocolate …

  2. Thanks for writing about this, Larissa, because it has made me much more “attuned” to the sound of these (and now my mind actively seems to seek them out). My previous Icelandic teacher at Alþjóðasetur ALWAYS used to say “hérna” as a filler, and when my boyfriend is talking with friends, I’ve picked up on his use of “sko.” Just after I was finished reading your blog post, the boyfriend started streaming an interview from Icelandic radio, and the hikorð were so obvious to me! I think that being aware of these is incredibly important for us language learners so we can separate the wheat from the chaff in speech.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s