Iceland, Through Old-Timey British Eyes (And Accents)

Image above from the 1961 Pathé newsreel “Hot Springs in Iceland.” Per the narrator: “Certainly nature has been very kind to a country where you can grow exotic flowers merely by building a glass house and running a pipe to the nearest boiling spring. No wonder the friendly, hardworking people who live here tell you that the coldest thing about Iceland is its name.”

Last week, a number of archival videos of Iceland started making the rounds, after the former British newsreel production company, Pathé, uploaded all 3,500 hours of its historic footage to its YouTube channel. A number of the videos included were of Iceland, and they were hilarious. One of the Grapevine’s interns combed through the many videos and transcribed some of the better quotes (For a nice change of pace, I actually got to help with “translating” these, as, being a non-native English speaker, the narrator’s nasally accent and old-timey Britishisms were occasionally unintelligible to her [and to me for that matter]).

See the full post (totally worth it) here. But for just a quick taste, here’s one to start with. (If anyone can decipher what the narrator says in the run of slangy terms which includes “mod cons,” I’d love to know what he’s rattling on about.)

“The constant supply of hot water on the island is a washer woman’s dream come true.”

“Conveyed by pipes, the naturally heated water serves the hot houses, in which are grown a wonderful variety of flowers, fruits and vegetables. Cripes! Grapes! And tomatoes like the pictures on seed paintings. According to our cameraman, these other things are bananas.”

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3 thoughts on “Iceland, Through Old-Timey British Eyes (And Accents)

  1. Well, I’m English and I have no idea what he was saying either. Sounds like:
    “Why, this is something like every comf: h&c, mod con, outdoor sen etc.”
    Maybe he means “every comfort: hot and cold (running water), modern conveniences, outdoor scene etc?”
    And I thought learning Icelandic was hard. Cripes!

    • Thanks, Adrian! This is probably the closest we’ve gotten yet. My coworker is British himself and no idea. It was pretty entertaining in its way to be listening to English and have no clue of what was being said, though. Cripes, indeed!

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