Monday, October 10, 2011
Speaking in Tongues
Before this trip, the only thing I knew about the Icelandic language was that it was sprinkled with letters I didn't recognize, most notably the eth (ð) and the thorn (þ). Aren't they pretty?
Now that I've been here a few days and heard it spoken constantly, I'm in love with it. It has lilt and sparkle. It falls gently on the ear. A casual conversation in Icelandic sounds less like chitchat than a duet. (Or a trio, quartet, or–after a substantial amount of Gull has gone down the hatch–a free-for-all twelve-tone Viking war chorus.)
I love languages and am usually pretty good at picking them up on the fly. But not Icelandic. Three days and I still can't pronounce the name of my street (Þórsgata) in a way that doesn't make taxi drivers say, "What?"
Being unable to decode anything written–menus, shop signs, magazine titles, street signs–is wildly disorienting. The street signs, in particular, make me seasick. Þórsgata is an easy one. Usually you're confronted with Rauðarárastígur, which when spoken properly sounds as though it only has two syllables, neither of which uses any of the letters in "Rauðarárastígur."
To cope, while I try earnestly to improve myself, I've had to resort to remembering street names by what they kinda look like instead of what they actually are. This morning, I'm in charge of navigating myself and my companions (Mike of FiberBeat and Stephen of Hizknits) to a thermal pool we haven't tried yet. It's at the corner of Burgermunch and Snuffleuppagus.
If you don't hear from us in 24 hours, send help.
Addendum: I opened Flickr this morning to be greeted by this.
Go fuck yourself, Flickr.