Many months ago I wrote of some of our early language comedy as we began studying Icelandic. We have made quite a bit of progress, but I still have some stories to share from along the way. I cannot remember when this happened, but it happened all the same and was quite funny for us.
During the early part of the summer we were walking through a park near our home when an exuberant young boy peddled up to us on his bicycle. He was beckoning us to follow him and spitting out a mixture of phrases. First in high-speed Icelandic, then in muddled English. Discerning that he did not have enough English to make himself sensible I told him in Icelandic that I could maybe understand him if he were to speak slowly in Icelandic. He did so and Annie and I looked confusedly at one another and said, “He is asking us to come to his home.” Not accustomed to accepting invitations home from 9 year old boys we were a bit hesitant, but his insistence overpowered all four of us and we soon found ourselves following him. I thought I heard him say something in the neighborhood of “leikföng” and quickly assumed he had some toys to show us. As we arrived at the yard outside his house there was a smattering of boys gathered around a makeshift merchant house filled to the rafters with an odd array of toys. Of the five boys a young Iceland-born son of a Saudi immigrant seemed to have the situation well in hand and quickly distinguished himself as the primary “man” of business.
When we arrived and figured out the reason for our strange appropriation we realized we did not have any local currency. When they saw our array of U.S. and British coinage they were more than happy to oblige with the offer of a fair exchange. Being in the unusual circumstances of possessing a better control of their own language than they did of mine, we did our business in Icelandic. We picked out what appeared to be a small children’s book, offered them a fair price, and prepared to leave. Before paying they began to add parting gifts to our bounty quite similar to the close of a made for TV infomercial and we left as very happy customers.
It wasn’t until a few days later that one of us finally sat down to inquire further into the book that we had purchased. There was one word that I didn’t quite understand in the title, but became all too clear when we finally made our way through the rest of the book. A crime had been committed and a young mole is out to find out who the culprit is. Along the way the reader discovers that it wasn’t the horse, pig, cow, rabbit, or the bird. Just when it looks like the crime is headed for the cold case file, two flies come along and use their sleuthing ability and provide the information that solves the riddle.
The title in translation with the missing word: The mole that wanted to know who ______ on it’s head.