Conversations: Genocide and Dogma

Consider the Holocaust: centuries before the mid 20th century, Christian Europeans had viewed the Jews as the worst species of heretics and attributed every societal ill to their continued presence among the faithful. In the 1930’s and 1940’s, while the hatred of Jews in Germany expressed itself in a predominately secular way, its roots were religious, and the explicitly religious demonization of the Jews of Europe continued. The anti-Semitism that built the Nazi death camps was a direct inheritance from medieval Christianity.

Examples aplenty, the Vatican itself perpetuated the blood libel in its newspapers as late as 1914. And both Catholic and Protestant churches have a shameful record of complicity with the Nazi genocide.

Hang on, what is this so-called blood libel? Continue reading

Anecdote: Dr Johnson

Dr Johnson once boasted that he could recite from memory whole chapters from Horrebow’s Natural History of Iceland, for example Chapter LXXII. The title and text of the chapter simply reads:

Concerning Snakes.

There are no snakes to be met with throughout the whole island.

Iceland’s Anti-incest App

Iceland likes to keep it weird, but weird as in they voted for a mayor who ran as a member of the so-called Best Party and used to be a comedian and punk rocker. Weird as in drinking more Coca-Cola per capita than any other country in the world. Not weird as in having babies with close relatives.

Unfortunately, since there are only around 320,000 people living in Iceland, and most share common ancestors, almost everyone is related to each other distantly. This is disturbing when you think about how easy it might be to accidentally crush on a cousin. Therefore, people are working to make sure relatives stay out of each others’ bedrooms by embracing technology.

To that end, a new smartphone app has been developed in Iceland that can be used to alert each of Iceland’s inhabitants as to whether they share a common ancestor with potential sexual partners.

“Finndu út hvernig þið eru skyld með því að bömpa símunum.”

The anti-incest function allows users to bump their phones together to check their heritage against a central database and make sure they’re not breaking any laws before knocking boots. The app’s motto is actually “Bump in the app before you bump in the bed.”

Patronymic‏ Names

A patronym, or patronymic, is a component of a personal name based on the name of one’s father, grandfather or an even earlier male ancestor.A component of a name based on the name of one’s mother or a female ancestor is a matronymic.

Each is a means of conveying lineage. Patronymics are still in use in many places world wide, although their use has largely been replaced by family names.

Icelandic names differ from most current Western family name systems by being patronymic in that they reflect the immediate father of the child and not the historic family lineage. The Icelandic system does not use family names. A person’s surname indicates the first name of the person’s father.

Some family names exist in Iceland, mostly inherited from parents of foreign origin, while some are adopted. Before 1925, it was legal to adopt new family names; one Icelander to do so was the Nobel Prize-winning author Halldór Laxness. Since 1925, one cannot adopt a family name unless one explicitly has a legal right to do so through inheritance.

First names that have not been previously used in Iceland must be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee (Icelandic: Mannanafnanefnd) before being used. The criterion for acceptance of names is whether or not they can be easily incorporated into the Icelandic language. First, they must contain only letters found in the Icelandic alphabet and second, they must be able to be declined, that is, modified according to their grammatical case.

A basic family tree showing the patronymic nam...

A basic family tree showing the patronymic names of an Icelandic father’s two children. The passed down name is underlined.

Icelandic patronymic naming works likes this: a man named Jón Einarsson has a son named Ólafur. Ólafur’s last name will not be Einarsson like his father’s; it will become Jónsson, literally indicating that Ólafur is the son of Jón (Jóns + son).

The same practice is used for daughters. The daughter of Jón Einarsson is called Sigríður, she would not have the last name Einarsson; she would have the name Jónsdóttir. Again, the name literally meaning the daughter of Jón (Jóns + dóttir).

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June is the sixth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar, with a length of thirty days.

The Roman poet Ovid provides two etymologies for June’s name in his poem concerning the months entitled the Fasti. The first is that the month is named after the Roman goddess Juno, wife of Jupiter and equivalent to the Greek goddess Hera, whilst the second is that the name comes from the Latin word iuniores, meaning younger ones, as opposed to maiores – elders for which the preceding month May is named.

At the start of June, the sun rises in the constellation of Taurus; at the end of June, the sun rises in the constellation of Gemini. However, due to the precession of the equinoxes, June begins with the sun in the astrological sign of Gemini, and ends with the sun in the astrological sign of Cancer.

June is the month with the longest daylight hours of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and the shortest daylight hours of the year in the Southern Hemisphere.

June in the Northern Hemisphere is the seasonal equivalent to December in the Southern Hemisphere and vice versa.

In the Northern hemisphere, the beginning of the meteorological summer is 1 June. In the Southern hemisphere, the beginning of the meteorological winter is 1 June.

June is known for the large number of marriages that occur over the course of the month. According to one etymology, June is named after Juno, or Hera. Juno was the goddess of marriage and a married couple’s household, so some consider it good luck to be married in this month.

In Iceland, folklore says that if you bathe naked in the morning dew on the morning of June 24, you are supposed to keep ageing at bay for longer.

In both common and leap years, no other month begins on the same day of the week as June. This month and May are the only two months that have this. June ends on the same day of the week as March every year.