things that make the news in Iceland: cheeseburger soup and snow penises

Snjótyppi klýfur Gautaborg // Snow penis divides Gothenburg (

A snow penis has reportedly caused division among the residents of Swedish city Gothenburg. An unknown prankster drew a penis on a frozen river and the city received a number of complaints from people asking it to be destroyed. This proved to be rather a challenge as the ice was too thin to allow city workers to walk on it, so they had to use some sort of long-handled tool to destroy the snow penis from a distance.

The destruction of the snow penis caused a backlash on social media, and of course someone founded a Facebook group called something like “Rebuild the snow penis” (I’d like to think that in English it would have been something like “the snow penis will rise again”).

A new snow penis was indeed created, reportedly so large that it can only be seen in its entirety from the air. The Icelandic article delightfully refers to it as “Hið nýja snjótyppi,” which will probably be amusing only to those who know Icelandic.

(Here’s an article in English for those who want to learn more about the snow penis phenomenon.)


Ostborgarasúpan gerði allt vitlaust upp í HÍ: Það var algjör örtröð í Hámu // Cheeseburger soup causes a ruckus at the University of Iceland: The cafeteria was crazy crowded! (Vísir)

Yes, the soup of the day at my school’s cafeteria made the news. Is cheeseburger soup an American thing? Probably. In any case, I feel like it’s something I’ve definitely heard of before, but apparently here it’s the soup equivalent to a unicorn. Everyone lined up to try it and deliver their verdict. Some hypothesized that the soup was an experiment of sorts, to measure the power of social media. It seems to have worked. One person went so far as to declare it akin to “Almar í kassanum,” the art student who spent a week naked in a glass box back in December. In other words, it was something everyone just had to see for themselves. It was the talk of the town.

It sparked a number of amusing tweets and the wonderful hashtag #súputíð, which literally means “soup time” but is a reference to the word gúrkutíð (“cucumber time”), used to describe a period of slow news. It’s always gúrkutíð around here, really.


Gæti skotið einhvern en samt unnið // Could shoot someone and still win (RÚV)

Ironically for someone who’s so into wall-building, the stupidity of Donald Trump knows no boundaries. While I am grateful to hear a lot less about him here than I would back in the States, I still hear way too much, as of course the world is following the campaign with an appropriate blend of amusement and horror.

His latest assertion that he could stand on Wall Street and indiscriminately shoot someone walking past without losing a single voter basically encompasses everything that is wrong with Trump: he is stupid, he is crass, he is disgustingly confident, and he is disgustingly popular.

Reading about him in Icelandic somehow creates a bit of distance, but sadly I know he will continue making headlines, and the truth behind those headlines, regardless of the language, will be alarming and depressing.

Until the next batch of news, friends.



things that make the news in Iceland: baby names, sassy ladies, and Bieber

I’ve been buried in finals season for the past several weeks, so I’ve neglected my important duty of reporting the most amusing and puzzling of things that make the news in Iceland. So let’s start catching up, shall we?


Foreldrar eru farnir að skíra börnin sín eftir Instagram filterum

(Parents have begun naming their children after Instagram filters)

Okay, so this clearly isn’t news from Iceland, but it doesn’t surprise me at all that Icelandic news outlets would pick up this story. As you probably already know, Iceland has a so-called naming committee (Mannanafnanefnd) intended to ensure that Icelandic children are only given names which fit into the language’s declension patterns. There’s no such thing as a gender-neutral first name here, with the famous (infamous?) exception of Blær. Rather, the law actually states that names must be clearly gendered; boys must be given masculine names, girls must be given feminine names (you can search the list of approved names here).

Apparently parents in lands without such naming laws have been influenced by Instagram’s catchy filter names and have begun bestowing them upon babes in arms. Among the most popular? Lux, Ludwig, Amaro, Reyes, Hudson, and Kelvin for boys, and Valencia, Juno, and Willow for girls. The caption on the photo in the article reads: “This likely wouldn’t be approved here in Iceland.”


Drakk óvart malt frá síðustu öld: “Ég hélt ég væri bara svona léleg að blanda”

(Accidentally drank malt from the last century: “I thought I just wasn’t very good at mixing”)

An Icelandic woman accidentally drank a can of malt extract that expired in November 1997, about 18 years ago. Sara and her friends went to a summer house to study for final exams and along the way they stopped to pick up some groceries, including cans of malt and appelsín to blend Iceland’s strange but beloved Christmas ale. Sara made herself a glass and drank it despite noticing a slightly strange taste; she thought she just wasn’t good at finding the right proportion of malt to appelsín. But it later came to light that she had taken a can of malt from the fridge, whereas the new cans were out on the counter. Apparently Sara had a bit of a tummy ache but suffered no serious consequences. She has vowed to be less thrifty in the future and instead just buy the pre-blended jólaöl.

“Feitar” íslenskar stelpur svara fyrir sig: “Good luck getting laid in Iceland”

(“Fat” Icelandic girls fight back: “Good luck getting laid in Iceland”)

So a couple of chauvinistic Austrian guys were interviewed during Airwaves about their experience in Iceland. They took the opportunity to complain that Icelandic women are getting fatter and fatter because they can’t stop eating fast food. The greatest irony is that they were reportedly eating fast food during this interview. Anyway, as you can imagine, this didn’t go over too well. But instead of just denouncing them as sexist pigs (which they clearly are), Icelandic women took a slightly more dramatic, amusing, and effective approach, inundating social media with photos of themselves eating fast food. The whole notion of Iceland being a perfect paradise for women is blown out of proportion, but it is true without a doubt that Icelandic women as a whole stand up for themselves, and usually with quite a sense of humor.

Á von á því að deyja ef Bieber fer úr að ofan í Kórnum

(Expects she will die if Bieber takes his shirt off at Kórinn)

Last but not least, Justin Bieber continues to make headlines here in Iceland, especially since it was announced that he will kick off his next world tour here in Iceland next September. Beliebers around the country celebrated the announcement, which came five years after they marched through downtown Reykjavík, wearing purple (reportedly Bieber’s favorite color), chanting, and singing Bieber songs in a bid to convince the pop star to perform here (yes, this actually happened).

Anyway, Bieber will play at Kórinn in Kópavogur, the same venue where Justin Timberlake played last year.

In this article, die-hard Belieber Heiða Lind Ingólfsdóttir is interviewed. She of course expresses excitement about the concert, but admits she’s frustrated that liking Bieber has seemingly become cool (really? this is news to me). She’s been a “devoted Belieber” (her words) for years. She describes seeing Bieber in concert as the equivalent of someone of her mom’s generation seeing Elvis in concert.

Anyway, the show sold out in half an hour and there are rumors that a second show might be added. In any case, the good news for me is that there will inevitably be a steady stream of Bieber-related headlines to give me something to write about! What a deal!


things that make the news in iceland: thirsty prisoners, clumsy thieves, and more bieber

It’s that time again, friends: time for a roundup of the latest strange and absurd news from this little Atlantic outcropping, plus the requisite dose of Bieber shenanigans.

“Prisoners want red wine with their meals” (

Prisoners at Kvíabryggja, a minimum-security prison in Grundarfjörður, have reportedly demanded that they be allowed to consume red wine and other alcoholic beverages with their meals, at least on special occasions. Kvíabryggja is reportedly home to some of the criminals responsible for the 2008 banking crash (I’m too lazy to confirm this beyond this article, which confirms that former Kaupthing co-owner Ólafur Ólafsson resides at Kvíabryggja). As stated in the article, though, all prisoners in the penal system, regardless of their crimes, must follow the same rules. So it looks like the bankers won’t be sipping merlot any time soon.

“Thief threatens Breiðholt family: wants items he accidentally left behind after break-in” (

A thief who broke into a home in Breiðholt (an area of Reykjavík) early Tuesday morning accidentally left behind a sweater and jacket. A family of four lives in the home, and the father successfully chased away the thief, but not before he threatened them with a knife and threw a brick through a window in the children’s bedroom.

A couple days later, the father got a text message from the thief saying he had left his sweater and jacket at the house and planned to return to retrieve them. Apparently the father contacted the police, who showed little interest and concern and told him to just go ahead and meet the guy and then get back in touch.

Update: The plot thickens! “Family threatened by thief receives some of the stolen goods back along with an apology”

Apparently actress Ýrr Baldursdóttir, shocked and horrified by the story of this robbery, decided to take matters into her own hands. She contacted the family and asked them for the thief’s phone number. She then contacted the thief and told him he should return the stolen goods. This seems to have gone over well, as the next day Ýrr and her friend Gilbert went to the thief’s home and retrieved a good portion of the loot.

The actress was reportedly “reluctant” to discuss the matter with the media for fear that people would assume she did it for the attention, but she did share the following with DV:

“Vandinn var að allir hlutir voru ekki á sama stað og innbrotsþjófurinn náði ekki í vin sinn sem geymdi rest en hann lofaði að koma öllu til skila. Einhvern veginn í minni barnalegu trú eða löngun geri ég ráð fyrir að flestir séu gott fólk en misjafnlega á sig komnir, og þurfi bara að sjá að hægt sé að leysa málin áður en í óefni er komið. Hingað til hefur þetta farið fallega fram og vel fyrir alla og ég vona að svo verði með afganginn.”

“The problem was that all the items were not in the same place and the thief couldn’t get in touch with his friend who was keeping the rest, but he promised to return everything. Somehow in my childish faith or desire, I think most people are good people and simply need to realize it’s possible to solve the problem before the situation gets worse. So far this process has gone well for everyone involved and I hope the rest will resolve itself in the same manner.”

No word yet on whether the thief has received his sweater and jacket back.

“Crafty cat steals striped clothes in Vesturbær” (

In other theft-related news, a literal cat burglar has been stealing striped clothes from unsuspecting Vesturbær residents. Ljósa, a lovely orange and white cat, has a clear preference for striped garments, generally choosing socks and mittens, although she did recently bring home her first pair of knickers.

Perhaps someone should conduct a study to determine whether orange cats are more likely to display kleptomaniacal tendencies. There are at least two orange felines with a particular penchant for this type of thievery, the other being Snorri the Portlandian cat who steals his neighbors’ shoes, gloves, hats, and stuffed animals. Snorri seems to operate at a much higher level than Ljósa, though, as his owner routinely has to gather his loot in a wheelbarrow and push it around the neighborhood, returning items one by one to their rightful owners. In the video accompanying this news article, you can witness Snorri hunt a flip-flop.

“Naked photos of Justin Bieber cause a stir” (

Sorry, but with Justin Bieber media coverage, there’s always more where that came from. This was a particularly, erm, attention-grabbing article. It appeared in my Facebook newsfeed with a startling rear-view photo of naked Biebs, taken while he was in Bora Bora.

Remember how I stated in my previous Bieber coverage that he would forevermore be referred to as “Íslandsvinur” (“a friend of Iceland”)? Here’s the first sentence of this article:

Íslandsvinurinn og stórstjarnan Justin Bieber hefur enn á ný stolið fyrirsögnum fjölmiðla beggja vegna Atlantsála.”

“Friend of Iceland and superstar Justin Bieber has again stolen headlines on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Notice that “friend of Iceland” is mentioned BEFORE “superstar.” You can see what the Icelandic media considers most important.

It’s worth (roughly) translating a bit more of the article, I think:

“Ófáir, ekki síst Íslendingar, hafa velt því fyrir sér hvernig popparann sé vaxinn suður á bóginn á síðustu misserum eftir að myndir af honum á nærbuxunum einum klæða fóru á flakk.

Það gerði til að mynda Vala Grand fyrir skemmstu sem sagði að ekkert samræmi væri á milli þeirrar bungu sem Bieber skartaði í myndatöku fyrir fataframleiðandann Calvin Klein hér um árið og þeirri sem fylgdi honum upp úr íslenskri lækjarsprænu á dögunum. Gekk hún svo langt að segja að um hrein og bein „vörusvik“ væri að ræða.”

“More than a few, including plenty of Icelanders, have wondered in previous months how well the pop star is endowed after photos of him clad only in underwear started making the rounds.

Vala Grand, for one, considered the matter recently, and declared that the bulge Bieber sported in photo shoots for designer Calvin Klein is not consistent with that which followed him up out of an Icelandic stream several days ago. She went so far as to say that the matter at hand was a downright deception.”

The real question is, what filter did The Bieber decide would best accent his features?

Bónus language lesson: The word used in this article to refer to Bieber’s, ahem, goods, is bunga, which may be familiar as it is also part of the name Bárðarbunga, the volcano that made even more headlines than Bieber last year. Among the translations offered by are bulge, bump, elevation, and protuberance.

You’re welcome.

And that’s a wrap for now. I expect there will be plenty more absurd news to report within a matter of days, if not hours.

things that make the news in iceland: special bieber edition!


As anyone in Iceland or otherwise remotely tuned in to Icelandic news should know, none other than Justin Bieber graced this barren wasteland with his presence last week. And of course, the Icelandic media (and much of the public) was all over it. “News” articles (the term is used incredibly loosely in this context) began popping up at an alarming rate, reporting on everything from what Bieber ate to where he used the restroom to what he was tweeting about his Iceland stopover.

I can’t bring myself to write too much on the topic, but I would like to share a couple screenshots I took from Ví that I think beautifully capture the insanity. Check out this ridiculous string of headlines:

Screenshot 2015-09-24 01.16.53

In order:

“Óli to the rescue: Bieber slaughters FH in FIFA 16” (If this still doesn’t make any sense, you’re not alone. Apparently FH is a football team and FIFA 16 is some sort of football-y PlayStation game. Some computer genius named Óli came to Bieber’s rescue by configuring his PlayStation in his hotel room. Or something like that.)

“Superstar in Iceland!”

“Bieber and friends toast with red wine in the Westman Islands – video”

“Justin Bieber sings in the Icelandic rain – video”

“Bieber in his underwear at Fjaðrárgljúfur”

“Justin Bieber in Iceland: Dropped by Lemon (a restaurant) in Reykjanesbær”

I couldn’t even capture all the headlines in a single screen shot. Here are the rest from that page:

Screenshot 2015-09-24 01.17.11

“Bieber’s bodyguards banned photographs in Reykjanesbær”

“Bieber ordered a turkey sub: employee still in shock”

“Bieber used public toilet in Selfoss: stop along the Golden Circle”

“Lively discussion about Bieber on Twitter: ‘Someone ought to point out to him that in Iceland tourists poop on the side of the road'”

“The Bieber-walk remembered: ‘Once a Belieber, always a Belieber'” (Unsure about the phrase “Bieber-gangan,” I actually had to read this article, and was amused and disturbed to learn that it refers to an actual parade of Beliebers organized by teenage girls back in 2011. Apparently the goal was to convince the Biebs to hold a concert in Iceland. If you understand Icelandic, and actually even if you don’t, it’s worth watching the video in this article that shows the event.)

“Caught Bieber outside the restroom at Ólís (gas station) in Selfoss”

“Bieber shares a video of himself in Iceland: ‘Today is an amazing day'”

Then things escalated with reports that Bieber had invited a couple of girls up to his hotel room – presumably, of course, to play FIFA 16.

I was talking about this Bieber mania with a couple friends and one of them commented that after his visit (all of 48 hours or something) here, Bieber would instantly be branded “Íslandsvinur,” “a friend of Iceland.” And she was right. The next day, in a Fréttablaðið article, I read this: “Um helgina, af hverju ekki að… hlustaðu á Justin Bieber, fátt er meira viðeigandi þessi vikulokin en að rifja upp gamla smelli með nýjasta Íslandsvininum” (“This weekend, why not… listen to Justin Bieber. It seems fitting at the end of this week to revisit some old pop songs with the latest friend of Iceland”).

Justin Bieber: Eitt sinn Íslandsvinur, ávallt Íslandsvinur.

Bónus: Fallbeyging nafnsins

In case you were wondering, this is how “Bieberinn” declines in Icelandic:

Nefnifall (Nominative): Bieberinn

Þolfall (Accusative): Bieberinn

Þágufall (Dative): Biebernum

Eignarfall (Genitive): Biebersins

You’re welcome.

things that make the news in Iceland: football victories and flying trampolines

Every language has words the meanings of which seem incredibly specific in any context outside of that language. That is, some characteristic of the people who speak the language or the place(s) in which it is spoken has rendered this word necessary, whereas it might not be quite as useful in other cultural or geographic contexts. In Iceland, many such words are tied to the weather. For anyone who has ever lived in Iceland or even visited for a few days, this will come as no surprise. The weather here is volatile, and it is often big. It is experienced with multiple senses – you see it, you hear it, you definitely feel it – especially when the weather in question involves strong winds, which it pretty much always does.

One of my favorite Icelandic verbs is að fjúka, which means essentially “to be blown by the wind.” As an added bónus, if something has been blown away by the wind, you would say “það hefur verið fokið” (“fokið” being the past participle), which of course bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain less polite English word. So as a native English speaker, it always appeals to my less mature sense of humor when I come across this word in its many incarnations.

This week, thanks to our first bout of stormy autumn weather, the word has been cropping up all over the place, sort of like the tree branches and leaves that have been blown all over the city.

A sampling of flying trampoline news:

“Now Jónas has a trampoline”

(“Nú á Jónas trampólín“)

In this delightful little snippet from Víkurfréttir, one photo and a snappy headline speak louder than a long string of words ever could.

Víkurfréttir -
Víkurfréttir –

The article reads,

Sometimes warnings go in one ear and out the other. Yesterday, trampoline owners were specifically requested to safely secure these summer playthings.

Someone in Sandgerður chose to ignore this warning, so his trampoline took to the air.

Kristinn Ingi Hjaltalín shared this photo from Sandgerður on Facebook this morning, noting in the caption, “Now Jónas has a trampoline.”


“Twenty-two trampolines on the move: Severe weather this evening and overnight”

(“22 trampólín á ferðinni: Vont veður í kvöld og í nótt“)

This article, from, notes that no fewer than twenty-two trampolines were reportedly found blown into trees, onto cars, around light poles, etc. in the greater capital area.

Bónus fact: The séríslenskt orð (uniquely Icelandic word) for trampoline is “fjaðradýna” or “fjaðurdýna,” which literally means something like “elastic/springy mattress.” I know I’ve already overused the adjective “delightful,” but how else can I describe these wonderfully literal Icelandic words? They are truly delightful.


Besides the flying trampolines, probably the biggest news in these parts is the Icelandic men’s football (that’s soccer to you, my American friends) team’s qualifying for the 2016 UEFA European Championship, to be held in France next year. This is the first time ever that the Icelandic men’s football team has made it to an international championship. (Iceland is also apparently the smallest nation ever to make it into a national tournament.) Anyway, football is hugely popular here, and things that earn Iceland international recognition are hugely popular here, and partying is hugely popular here. Put all these things together and you can imagine what the scene was like downtown after Iceland’s win against Kazakhstan (the game was actually a draw, but for some reason I don’t understand and don’t actually care to understand, a tie meant that Iceland advanced and Kazakhstan did not).

But should you have trouble imagining the scene, don’t fear – Some industrious journalist at Vísir took it upon himself to painstakingly detail the entire evening’s timeline:

National football team downtown: Where did the boys celebrate?

(“Landsliðið í miðbænum: Hvar fögnuðu strákarnir?“)

The timeline begins with the end of the game at 20.45, at which point the team of course celebrated heartily on the field, before devoting a good amount of time to interviews and the like. The article then (unnecessarily, if you ask me) points out that the boys showered and got all dolled up (well, okay, I’m embellishing on the translation here) for the celebration.

At 21.55, the team appeared at Ingólfstorg, a square downtown where the game had been live streamed on a big screen thanks to mobile phone company Nova.

At 22.20, the team hopped on a bus which took them to Gamla Bíó, where the celebration continued.

Around midnight, most of the team headed to b5, where they were greeted by a whole host of supporters, including a few famous names (UFC fighter Gunnar Nelson… actually, that’s the only “famous” person on this list that I’ve ever heard of).

Apparently there was a lot of singing at b5, and the song “N*ggas in Paris” by Kanye West and Jay-Z was in heavy rotation. The article describes this song as “appropriate” for the occasion, since the team is heading to France next year. I think we have different definitions of “appropriate,” Mr. Journalist.

At 02.00, the friendly local police force appeared to kick people out of b5, since by law, clubs/bars have to close at 1 AM Sunday through Thursday. The journalist points out that it was pretty difficult for the police to get everyone to leave (although I have heard only reports of extreme glee and drunkenness, not violence) and states that people there were somehow likening the situation to the battle between American hip-hop group N.W.A. and the cops. Seriously? I can only imagine that a vast amount of alcohol went into this comparison.

On a more serious but equally ridiculous note: The way this achievement has been reported in the news, both here in Iceland and abroad, you could easily assume that this is the first time any Icelandic national football team has made it to an international championship. But in fact, the Icelandic national women’s football team has made it to the European championship not once, not twice, but three times (1995, 2009, 2013). That whole idea, so popular in clickbait articles and blogs, that Iceland is an oasis of perfect gender equality? Not true. Iceland might be doing a lot of things right on this front, but gender inequality is pervasive, not least in sports. So if you’ve been excited about the men’s football team, by all means, be excited. But don’t forget the women’s team. Don’t diminish their accomplishments.


Parliament members walk past a naked Jón Sigurðsson

(“Þingmenn gengu fram á nakinn Jón Sigurðsson“)


To Americanize this headline, we could say something like, “Congressmen walk past naked George Washington.”

Jón Sigurðsson was the foremost hero of the 19th-century independence movement that resulted in Iceland finally shrugging off the Danish crown. A statue of him stands in Austurvöllur, the square right in front of the parliament building. A few days ago, there also happened to be a giant poster advertising the film “Fyrir framan annað fólk” on the side of the building behind the statue (and therefore also across from parliament). Why the promo poster involves a photo of naked Jón Sigurðsson remains a mystery to me, despite a good amount of googling. If anyone knows, please, by all means, educate me.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure this article came into existence simply because some photographer or journalist happened to be near the Alþingi and took note of this admittedly amusing sight. It might not be big news, but since I’ve decided to blog about just this sort of “news,” I’m certainly not complaining.


And that concludes the second edition of “things that make the news in Iceland.” Let’s give it a few days for more non-news to break, and then I will return with more.