“A BEACHED WHALE” IS A “STROKE OF GOOD LUCK”. The end of the year Economist had an article comparing the efforts of the French to keep their language pure and the efforts in Iceland to keep their language as close as possible to old Norse. In contrast to the 40 immortals of the French Academy, the language planning council in Iceland relies on consultations with fifty unofficial groups of enthusiasts. As an example of the Icelandic approach to adapting Old Norse words to modern life, the Economist gives the example of the coining of a new word in the 1960’s for a “computer”. The new word, “tölva”, combined “tala”, the word for “number” and “völva”, an old word for a prophetess.
The Economist concludes with the word for a “a lucky windfall”, which preserves the outlook of the historical way of life in Iceland: “hvalreki”. The word means: “a beached whale”—which would provide months of food.