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Interesting Fact

Iceland's population is so small that telephone directories are alphabetized by first name.


Icelandic is a member of the North Germanic branch of the Indo-European language group. It is a descendant of Old Norse language of the Germanic people during the Viking era.

Icelandic has changed very little from Old Norse, to the extent that Icelandic speakers can still read sagas in Old Norse. The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies now creates new words for Icelandic to stop the intrusive influence of loanwords. Words created include tölva (computer) – a wonderful fusion of tala (number) and völva (prophetess) that adds up to the poetic “prophetess of numbers.”

Interestingly, Icelandic names differ from most Western family name systems by being named after the father (or occasionally mother): If a man named Jón Einarsson has a son named Ólafur, Ólafur’s last name will not be Einarsson like his father’s; it will be Jónsson, literally indicating that Ólafur is the son of Jón (Jóns + son).


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