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The Basque-Icelandic Pidgin (wikipedia.org)
153 points by keiferski 11 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 48 comments

From the refs: Iceland revokes 400-year-old legal right in Westfjords district to kill Basques on sight


Phew! Finally it's safe for Basques to visit Iceland again! :D Jokes aside, Iceland is a very interesting place, not just because of its incredible nature, but also its history and language, especially due to their very interesting and well preserved old texts, and also because they're so remote and insular. It's a treasure trove for etymologists and laypeople alike. It's also quite interesting to track the etymological differences between the nearby islets and countries, for instance on Faroe Islands. Personally I wonder about graph-driven language analysis, and it's a hobby project of mine to go deeper into that.

> Phew! Finally it's safe for Basques to visit Iceland again!

¡Ahí Va La Hostia Pues, Inaki!

Europe has so many of these small disputes and treaties that make absolutely no sense what so ever if solely looked at through a modern lens and with no context. As a person born in the US to a European parent it was so odd to see these little details when visiting, even within Spain itself.

Specifically, and relevant to this topic, the Basque Country which has a long history of secession from the Spanish Kingdom. Catalunya is another as is Valencia, due to the horrible violence of the Spanish Civil War, but I had known of that already.

The notion of Autonomous communities is almost antithetical to a nation state/uniter kingdom model, and yet you have it and it exists within the EU. And then when it tries to to exercise those rights it gets people thrown in jail as seen with the successful 2017 Catalan separation vote, that saw its proponents get thrown in jail, beaten and chased by secret police from Madrid and saw its leader Carles Puigdemont fled to Brussels where he still has standing as a member of Parliament somehow. He recently spoke out about the CCP's brash and belligerent violence in Hong Kong, and sought to enact legislation to curtail it.

And then in the South you have Gibraltar, a part of the UK, which is some how autonomous but still physically in the Iberian peninsula.

I wonder if there will be a time when the whole UK vs Iceland thing over Icesave will come up in some obscure way, as the UK put Iceland as a rouge nation on the terrorist watch-list for their refusal to bailout them out in the 2008 financial crises [0].

0: https://www.icelandreview.com/news/iceland%E2%80%99s-preside...

> when it tries to to exercise those rights it gets people thrown in jail as seen with the successful 2017 Catalan separation vote

That is a really biased, inaccurate way to describe the legal ramifications of the Procés. I won’t hijack the conversation but people, don’t store this as fact without reading more about it. It’s quite a convoluted situation but it is pretty clear imho that just painting it as “Spain is an oppresive state” is a ridiculous simplification.

Is there still bad blood between Iceland and the UK from the Cod Wars?

I don't think so. Could be one or two British fishermen who are still sore about it, but they got bigger problems once they joined the EU.

Holy s*it. As to why this had been decreed:


17th century Iceland during a famine year was a very, very bleak place.

I wonder what would have happened if someone murdered a person before 2015 on Iceland who happened to be Basque (due to some other disagreement perhaps). Then in court, the accused would claim innocence due to the legal right that in fact was still in existence. Would he walk?

    leges posteriores priores contrarias abrogant
The Icelandic legal system operates on the well-established principle that later laws implicitly repeal earlier ones if they conflict[1].

So no, killing a Basque person would have been legally no different than killing anyone else.

There was also a law on the books until 1991 that you could legally kill Turks on sight, due to an incident that didn't even involve Turkish people to begin with[2] (Icelanders at the time apparently didn't differentiate them from Algerians).

It was repealed, but not due to any legal practicality. The Turkish national team refused to travel to Iceland unless the law was repealed, so it was struck from the books as a purely symbolic gesture.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implied_repeal

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkish_Abductions

> an incident that didn't even involve Turkish people to begin with

At the time, Algeria was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire

> At the time, Algeria was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire

Seems the original Vikings were afraid of being Viking'd themselves and put into Law?

Maybe? I guess it depends on how old the law against murder is.

& if the stone tablets it was written on aren't dated? Now we have a comparison with NULL problem in our query.

It's in the article

>"The decision to do away with the decree was more symbolic than anything else," Westfjords district commissioner Jonas Gudmundsson told reporters last month. "We have laws, of course, and killing anyone — including Basques — is forbidden these days."

I'm Basque, I'm a very long time HN regular, and I love linguistics related topics. So I'm keen to see this, but I still don't fully understand how this makes it to the front page :)

I recently discovered and started frequenting all the internet resources that have grown around the language learning community (there's a lot of websites, youtube channels with polyglots showing off, etc).

As a Spaniard, it was really surprising to see how popular the Basque language is around those circles. I think it's a mix of the historical quirkiness of it being a pre-roman western European language, and the bragging potential for language learners due to how niche and unrelated to other languages it is.

If you ever need to make some money on the side, there are sites where you can book conversations with native speakers to practice, and basque is really in demand, so an euskaldun can make good money :)

Yes, that's true. I also think this is due the history of linguistics itself as a field. Until the 19th century, I think scholars focused on european languages. Nearly all of them of indoeuropean origin: Maltese probably just ignored, Finnish and Hungarian found to be distantly related (I never saw Estonian mentioned in older texts), and Basque was "the mysterious isolate".

Please share with me some links to those sites where I could make some side money just by speaking some Basque, sounds like a good mental break from programming :)

https://www.italki.com/ – I've heard from language learners that it's actually a very good way of learning, if you can't do full immersion (compared to stuff like srs, duolingo, grammar books, etc.)

General amusement, historical quirkiness, an interesting ad hoc linguistic interoperability framework (between two quite thoroughly-distinct languages) - lots of reasons :)


(It's been too long since I visited your country - such a beautiful place!)

The article makes it clear this is not a mix of Icelandic and Basque but rather a Basque pidgin found in Iceland.

Is the Icelandic connection somehow linked with the Basque national dish (and seeming national obsession) salted cod baked in olive oil? I went once and we were literally served it for every meal except breakfast. We visited a lot of different places and our hosts were always very proud of their particular method for making it and keen to show off their skills, but they didn't realise the last people we had been to see had the same idea. Its delicious, but it became a bit of a running joke the fourth or fifth time we had it! I really liked the Basque country, great cities and beautiful landscape.

My guess is that cod is widespread in countries around the North Atlantic. Hospitality in a bit of an excessive degree and bordering on comical annoyance due to unawareness is an even more widespread phenomenon around the world, as attested, among other, by many Hollywood comedies such as "My great Greek wedding" and others :)

Very glad you enjoyed it, and if you drop by Barcelona where I live now, I'll happily make sure you try 4 or 5 instances of the single best paella in the world.

Cod is pretty widespread, but salted cod is not common here in the UK or I think in Ireland and I had never come across that particular way of cooking it before. When we eat it, traditionally it is street food cooked from fresh, battered and deep fried, which can be nice if it's done right but many places mess it up and the fish gets too oily.

That paella sounds nice. Barcelona is also a great city, great food, culture, beaches, amusement park on a mountain! Seville, Madrid, Cordoba and Granada, even Valladolid are also great. The only Spanish city I didn't like was Malaga. In fact, I think that in general Spain is excellent at urbanism and liveable cities.

The Portuguese are also mad for salt cod. There's a dish called bacalhau à brás which is shredded salt cod, grated potato, and sliced onion, bound up with eggs and cooked to a scrambled consistency, and is one of my all time favourite dishes:


Do you have disconcertingly long earlobes?

Is this a Basque thing? I have significant Basque ancenstry and people have always pointed out how long my earlobes are.

Apparently it is yes.

Is it the opposite of elves then?

Basque are the orcs of Europe?

LOL! From a basque . My wife is asking what have I read.

Just quite long ones. Nobody got disconcerted so far, afaik :)

I am Icelander and I grew up in a fishing town near Reykjavik. When I was a small child, my greatgranddad was still alive and my mother would call him aitona. Later I learned that it was a basque word and that he came from a basque family. Small world indeed!

Cool story! How did your greatgranddad's son & daughter's last name look like? I understand they are formed adding -son and -dotir to the father's first name, would be interesting if it's a Basque name (Iñakison? Aitordotir?).

> Iñakison? Aitordotir?

I'm glad I already finished my beer, otherwise I would have spilled it over my keyboard xD (I'm Spanish too, from Cáceres)

Iceland has a governmental naming committee [0] that maintains a list of approved names. As I understand, obtaining exceptions has become easier, and in acknowledgement of non-binary people, there are no longer separate male and female name lists. But it's likely that in the time of OP's great-grandfather, he was given a very traditional Icelandic name (at least as his legal name).

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_Naming_Committee

Aitite and aitona are synonyms for grandad, the Basque language has a surprisingly large amount of dialects :-)

Did some googling, and came across this article about this Basque Pidgin https://core.ac.uk/reader/230764570. It contains many interesting facts. Including the passage:

"Certain surprising similarities among pidgins and creoles spoken in places distant from each other and with different linguistic components in their formation have led some linguistic to formulate a monogenetic theory that would trace many pidgins and creoles to a common ancestor: A Portuguese based pidgin or even to the Lingua Franca or Sabir spoken in the Mediterranean Basin from the Middle Ages (Whinnom, 1977)."

Even after the middle ages Portuguese seems to be an especially common source of pidgins, found in South east Asia, Africa and the Caribbean (curiously, in now Dutch territories) among other places.

Don’t miss the example pidgin phrases table! I almost fell off my chair laughing.

On a related note, there was also a Fench-Icelandic pidgin


Weird. The few lines on preview page look like Danish, except "runet" which looks like English "run" with a Danish past participle ending. I don't see anything that looks French.

I would read the next to last line as: "you have run ashore?"

From later in the article:

>Virtually all words are of Germanic origin. There are some possible explanations for this fact. The French component may have disappeared by the time it was recorded, but the pidgin preserved its name. It is also possible that the Frenchmen who went there were actually Flemish-speaking fishermen from the area around Dunkerque, France.

For Google Translation, a slightly different sentence is Danish.

ju haber runet på den lange

As a side note, the basques are a crazy and lovely bunch, and they party like there's no tomorrow.

I lived in Spain for 5 years, and 4 out of those 5 I dated a basque girl.

Basques are really proud of their culture and specially their language that is, at the same time, highly "dialectal" (If there's such a word). My gf at the time was from San Sebastian, but lived in a small town near Bilbao called Amorebieta.

She studied in the university of Pamplona, Navarra; she had a roomate from Vitoria, the capital of Álava province (One of the 3 provinces that make Euskadi, the basque country * .) and there were many occurrences where one had to explain to the other the meaning of a word they used. They also are a bit wary of the "euskara batúa" (The "standard" basque) although it worries them more the fact that it seems the language is slowly being lost.

I picked several words along the way and I also asked her to teach me some phrases, one in particular that I still remember (although may be not 100% accurately):

    Nirea da printxesen artean politena
(Mine is the most beautiful among all them princesses)

and she would scream in joy when I'd repeat that in front of her female friends.

* Navarra also has a strong basque heritage, but is not considered part of the basque country due to events in the spanish history were it would negotiate some political rights separately, and is a "principado" (principality? Princedom?).

They are also very, very tight knit families - Basques are somehow highly matriarchal - and they take proud in remembering all their "8 last names" (Specially if they all are of basque origin). Friend groups are also very tight knit, and a lot of people keep friendships they developed at an early age through their whole life.

Basques are also incredible loyal and hardworking people; but they also party like no one.

In Amorebieta a the time - ~2005 - I think there were only 4 or 5 bars, and on weekends people would go rotating constantly through them all (This was not particular to the town, but something that was normal for basques). On Sundays and holidays it was normal to find in the afternoon entire families having a drink at the sidewalk in the bars.

I know people from the UK had a certain fame about drinking, but let me tell you _nobody_ drinks & party like the Spaniards, and basques are at the top 3 of the Spanish nationalities of the list.

There's a rather entertaining book called "The Basque History of the World" [0] that claims, among other things, that the basques were also in America before Columbus and that more or less we own them the invention of salted cod that made possible the long journeys around the globe.

I left Spain 13 years ago, and to this day one of the things I miss the most is my basque family.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Basque-History-World-Story-Nation/dp/...

Very kind and nice note and I can confirm the precision of most of that, even the less-than-ideal things :)

Your phrase in Basque is accurate, standard orthography would be "printzesen" but it's pronounced quite similarly and in many areas exactly the same.

Basque people are very social, and a lot of that socialization happens around drinking. Usually not as heavy drinking as in other countries, but lower graduation alcohol and slower pace, but it happens for many hours, so it does end up being a lot. The plus side, it's hard to feel alone around here. The con, of course the liver suffers, and the excessive social life can end up feeling suffocating (you can opt out, but, especially in smaller towns, it takes some effort).

Navarre was a completely independent kingdom until 1521 when it was invaded by Castille, although stayed as a separate kingdom and legal entity within the non-homogeneous political complex of Spain until around 1850, when it became a province with some unique foral rights. These days it's an autonomous community within Spain with some extra rights (critical: tax collection & budgeting), same as the three traditional provinces of the Basque Country. There are many cultural and social ties between the Basque provinces and Navarre, also a few lighter ones with the French Basque area, and the areas collaborate, but they are distinct political entities today. Personal, cultural, social and nationalistic ideas and feelings with regards to this are on a very wide spectrum.

> standard orthography would be "printzesen"

If there was one word I knew I wouldn't get right, it was that one ;) I appreciate the correction.

I do miss going from bar to bar having a zurito.

As well, Here in Argentina it's very difficult to get "dry" sidras as the ones you have in Spain, and I love them.

Regarding Navarra, I knew about the complex relationship there is between it and the basque country; your comment about the wide spectrum of feelings is on point.

I can't comment about the rest of Europe - I suspect at least France & Germany, being the bigger countries over there have a similar structure - but Spain is really a group of several nations knitted together, each with it's own character - and more often than not, allegiances.

One thing I truly learn over there was to not call all of the Spaniards "gallegos" because of this, and I learned to appreciate and love the differences. But my heart goes to the basque country.

That book is by Mark Kurlansky who also discusses the Basques (and Iceland) in great detail in his entertaining book Cod: https://www.amazon.com/Cod-Biography-Fish-Changed-World/dp/0...

Hey yes, I read both books :)

I don't quite recall which one I read first (It was around 15 years ago, and my memory is a disaster) but I do recall that one of them took me to the other.

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