þriðjudagur, júlí 18, 2006


For those of you diligent readers following the saga of High School Principal Man, what was perhaps the most exciting chapter occurred this last Saturday. After swimming my laps, lying on the plastic benches in the steam room, and then chatting for an extended period with some French tourists in the massaging hot tub, I was feeling a bit like I needed to cool off. (Sometimes these extended spells in hot water and steam can make a guy feel pretty light-headed, as the good folks at the Reykjavík emergency room can attest.) But as I stood up to go, I noticed that, rapt as I was in the broken-English conversation I had been having to my right, someone locally famous had taken the seat immediately to my left.

"Blessaður!" said HSPM, as I turned and then something like, "I've seen you a few times here before." And then we were off to a roaring conversation. He's actually not a high school principal at all, but rather a news reporter for the print mouthpiece of Iceland's controlling political party. (Diligent readers: does this discovery of true occupation warrant a name change?) And he does indeed work near me in the forgotten wastelands on the Kópavogur-Garðabær border. But just as soon as the conversation had fired up, HSPM decided that he too had had enough of the nuddpottur and went wandering on into the steam room. Nevertheless, I feel like great things are in store for me at Laugardalslaug. My career as a hot-tub regular at Reykjavík's esteemed pool is at last poised for takeoff.

OK, so let's talk about that word saga. It came back into English in the 1700s, from Icelandic saga, to describe the medieval literature of the Land, which is incidentally Europe's oldest prose. Interestingly, the word sagu had previously been used in Old English to mean a "saying". The root of these words is the proto-Germanic word meaning "say" and it's also tied in with the English idea of an "old saw" being a proverb.

But since all you etymology-lovahs probably knew all this, I'll throw in one more. HSPM exclaimed blessaður! when he saw me, which is an old-school Icelandic greeting. It translates as blessed in English (but, nah, these languages aren't related). To a woman you would say blessuð because of the different adjective endings for masculine and feminine in Icelandic. Bye bye in Icelandic is bless bless and even these aren't that far off from each other, as "bye" comes from "God be with ye". Bye now!


Blogger cK said...

I'd stick with High School Principal Man (HSPM). I mean, I suppose he can take on a new identity, much in the way that Leaping Lanny Paffo became the Professor in the WWF some 20 years ago, but he was always going to be Leaping Lanny to some of us.

HSPM sails on with that monicker, I believe. At least silently.

Blogger Little Miss Loopy said...

Don't just take the digits, use them :) At some point in the night the drunk French guys started singing which is about the time when me and my posse (aka the strangers I had never seen before and my spanish friends)left. You really should be thankful for not witnessing the singing! :)

Blogger Johan said...

It translates as blessed in English (but, nah, these languages aren't related).

Are. English and Icelandic are both Germanic languages. Not sisters in the linguistic world, perhaps, but cousins.


Blogger JB said...

Johan, see: sarcasm. It figures in prominently in the culture of my hometown, Boston. Maybe it's not as widespread in Sweden.


Skrifa ummæli

<< Home