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Five questions about Iceland – Quick Quiz answers

We asked you five questions about Iceland. Here come the answers!

  1. Who or what is the Mannanafnanefnd and what is its purpose?
    It’s the Icelandic Naming Committee, also known in English as the Personal Names Committee, which maintains a list of approved given names in Iceland. Names have to conform to the Icelandic language’s grammar rules; they must be spelt using the Icelandic alphabet; they must not cause the child embarrassment; and, with rare exceptions, children of each sex (male or female) must be given a name with the corresponding grammatical gender (masculine or feminine). This can and does lead to controversies, particularly where a parent wants to name a child after a foreign relative.
  2. Historically, who or what were thralls?
    They were slaves or serfs, brought to Iceland at the time of its settlement – approximately 800–1000 CE. DNA analysis suggests that while 75% of the settlers’ male-line ancestry was Norse, as much of 60% of their female-line ancestry was from Ireland and Scotland, where most of the Norsemen’s slaves were captured.
  3. What is Iceland’s largest airport in terms of international passenger transport?
    Keflavík International Airport, approximately 50 km (31 miles) south-west of the capital Reykjavík. It was built during the Second World War by the US and has doubled as a military airfield for most of the time since. The older Reykjavík Airport is just two kilometres (one-and-a-quarter miles) from the city centre, but that’s mainly a domestic airport, barring a few flights to Greenland and, in the summer, to the Faroe Islands.
  4. The largest minority group of people in Iceland come from which country?
    Poland. In 2018 there were 17,010 Poles living in Iceland, nearly a third of the total immigrant population and way ahead of the second largest immigrant community, the Danes, on just 3,520. However, historically Iceland’s ties are closest with Norway, Denmark, Ireland and Scotland (see above).
  5. What signature product of Iceland is nicknamed “Black Death”?
    Brennivín, literally “burning wine” or “brandy”. It’s a spirit distilled from grain potatoes and flavoured with caraway, like Sweden’s akvavit. When the ban on alcoholic drinks was partially lifted in 1935 after 20 years, the state monopoly producer placed a white skull on its black label as a warning against drinking it – hence the nickname. Because beer stronger than 2.25% ABV remained banned until 1 March 1989 (now celebrated annually as Beer Day) some drinkers also added it to low-alcohol beer to boost the strength. (Which sounds disgusting, but not as disgusting as the Icelandic dish which brennivín traditionally accompanies: hákarl, fermented shark’s fin.)

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