Volcano creates new word

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Not only have Norwegians been highly creative in coping with the recent shutdown of air travel, they’ve also coined a new word that a language expert says describes their situation perfectly.

Ash and steam rise from an erupting volcano near Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland

Norwegians have long used the word værfast when they’re stuck somewhere because of the weather. The word vær means weather, and fast (pronounced “fahst” and rhyming with “lost”) can mean “permanent” or “stuck.” If a blizzard hits Bergen, for example, a Norwegian might say that he or she is “sitting værfast in Bergen.”

Suddenly, over the past several days since ash from a volcano in Iceland (photo) started halting air traffic, Norwegians started saying that they’re askefast, whereever they might be stuck. Aske is the word for “ash” and it’s pronounced “ah-skeh,” so it rhymes rather nicely with fast: “ah-skeh fahst.”

Even Norway’s prime minister, who had to endure an arduous and uncertain four days of travel as he tried to get back to Oslo from New York, used the new word as he sent off electronic messages during his journey. Statoil’s chairman, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg wrote, was askefast in Munich.

Sylfest Lomheim, head of Norway’s language council Språkrådet, characterizes the new word askefast as a big hit. By Tuesday it had been used nearly 23,000 times as a search word in Google.

Askefast sums up the situation for thousands of people,” Lomheim told news bureau NTB. He doubts it will last very long in normal use, though, but probably as long as the volcano keeps erupting and grounding flights.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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