Someone asked me recently why I still use emoticons like ;) and :D instead of just using the emojis. The answer is a little embarrassing.
See if I do use emojis on my iphone, I often end up accidentally putting my keyboard into Icelandic mode when I try to go back to use actual letters and words. My texts become a barrage of auto correct to Icelandic words and character symbols such as ð, þ, and Æ that only the approximate 330,000 people who speak Icelandic understand.
Should I actually answer that question about why I don’t use emojis, I’d have to explain something more complicated. Which is why I have my iPhone set to have an Icelandic keyboard in the first place.
I did it a few years ago when I was travelling there so I could write down place names in my phone with all their beautiful unique characters intact. But, besides skol (cheers) and sæll (hello) I don’t speak or read the language. In fact I can’t really make heads or tails of it.
But still I make my texting life harder with it.
A few months ago I removed the Icelandic keyboard, as well as, the French keyboard I’d installed on my phone. Even the French keyboard made some sense as it made it easier to drop an accent aigu into my lousy high school level French with my pretentious wannabe global citizen family and friends. With both of the alternate keyboards gone, for a few weeks I actually used emojis.
But I missed my Icelandic keyboard.
I missed seeing the weird characters that call to mind Björk and Vikings. Those Ð and Þ's. Characters unique to the land of fire and ice.
I missed seeing the weird auto correct of “radish” into “raðist” which I gather is the Icelandic word for attack. Emojis are amusing, but the idea of an attack radish or a radish attack is so much better, right?
Keeping the Icelandic keyboard is my perverse way of using modern technology to honor what it is killing off. Icelandic is likely a dying language. English has become the lingua franca of the modern communications age. (OK, perhaps really emojis are. But still.)
Young people across the globe learn English not because they are taught it in school, but so they can watch the latest viral sensation on YouTube and follow what’s happening on Twitter. It's brought the world together, but the cost may be the loss of languages that just aren't economically and pop-culturally viable anymore.
I’ve long been captivated by Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory), the ravens from old Icelandic mythology. The god Odin would send the two ravens out all over the world to collect information. But he’d worry they wouldn’t return.
We've dispensed with ravens and now use the Internet to collect our information — mostly in English.
But there are thoughts and memories interwoven into the words we use and the languages we speak that don’t translate.
That sent me back to the Norse sagas. Is this what Odin really feared?