If you’re looking for Icelandic slang, look no further than English. Whenever I ask an Icelander for slang words, Icelanders invariably tell me about the words Icelandic has taken from English. Here are some I’ve collected:
Hæ – From the English hi and pronounced similarly (æ in Icelandic is pronounced like the i in hi). It’s an informal greeting in Icelandic.
Bæ – You can probably guess what this one is – it’s from the English bye. Similar to hæ, it’s an informal way of saying goodbye.
Næs – From the English nice.
Tjilla – This one is probably not so easy to decipher – it’s from the English word chill and is used and conjugated like a normal Icelandic verb: “Ég tjillaði í gær. (I chilled yesterday.)”
Lots of English curse words – This is rather surprising to hear as an English speaker, but in Icelandic English curse words are not considered nearly as rude as they are in English – they are just like any other English loanword. It is considered rude to curse in Icelandic, but English words are fine.
Some Icelanders prefer Icelandic alternatives to English words, which is why new inventions such as electronics get purely Icelandic names rather than retaining the foreign names. For example, radio in Icelandic is útvarp and computer is tölva. This linguistic purity is an effort to avoid the loss of the Icelandic language; Icelandic has few speakers compared to other languages, but Icelanders are very proud of their language and don’t want it to be lost under the deluge of English like so many other languages. Fortunately, with so many Icelanders (and so many foreigners) interested in this beautiful language, it seems like the language will persist!