The iconic Icelandic coast guard cruiser Týr has just returned from a shipyard in Poland. It returned with the English label “Coast Guard” written in big black letters on its side.
When Týr left for Poland, it was labeled with “Landhelgisgaeslan”, the Icelandic word for coast guard. Ari Páll Kristinsson, director of The Icelandic Language Institute, told Fréttabladid that he is grieved by this change.
Jóhann Baldursson of the Icelandic Coast Guard says the label is in English so that foreigners can understand what kind of a ship Týr is. Baldursson says Icelanders recognize it with or without a label.
Kristinsson feels foreigners should be greeted in Icelandic when they enter Icelandic territory and questions whether all foreigners understand English.
Kristinn H. Gunnarsson, MP for the Progressive Party, has also criticized the new labeling and wonders if from now on police cars and police stations will be labeled in English too. Fréttabladid reports.
Icelanders are known for being protective of their language and creating words for new inventions, such as computer (“tölva”) and telephone (“sími”), instead of using the English word, as other non-English speaking countries have done.
The Icelandic language has remained relatively unchanged since the island’s settlement in year 874. It became a symbol of independence when Icelanders were fighting for their separation from Denmark in the 19th and early 20th century.
In the 1970s Icelanders were up for another fight, the Cod Wars, a series of confrontations between Iceland and the UK over the limits of the Icelandic fishery zone. Coast Guard cruiser Týr played a big part in the Cod Wars.