Icelandic, the language that recycles everything

Icelanders are protective of their language. When a new piece of tech or a new disease emerges, people debate what to call these things in Icelandic. New words must sound and look Icelandic, otherwise they may not survive. The country’s Knitting Words Committee is one of dozens of community panels charged with proposing new words. Typically, they repurpose old words that have fallen out of use. Who doesn’t want to revive a word or phrase from Iceland’s sagas? In this episode, we take you to Iceland to discover how, seemingly, an entire nation has coalesced around the maxim, “We have a very good old word for that.” 

Music in this episode by Taomito, Silver Maple, pär, Medité, Nathan Welch, and Trabant 33. Photo of Hulda Hákonardóttir and Guðrún Hannele Henttinen of Iceland’s Knitting Words Committee by Patrick Cox.

Read a transcript of the episode here. And sign up for Subtitle’s newsy, nerdy, fortnightly newsletter here.

Join the discussion

More from this show

Episode 71