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Icelandic: knappur

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Silver_Biscuit, Feb 10, 2013.

  1. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    Reykjavík
    English - UK
    Sæl,

    Ég er ekki viss um hvort ég hafi þýtt þetta orð rétt:
    In English, if I said that a narrative was sparse, I would mean that it is low on detail/embellishment. The Icelandic Sagas have a very sparse narrative style, for example. But somebody asked me what sparse meant and I said at that point that it was the opposite of dense, which maybe wasn't exactly what I meant by it in this sentence but in general stands. This person then said that knappur would mean dense, not sparse.
    If I said that a narrative was dense, I would mean that it was heavy-going, somewhat difficult to read, wordy, lots of details. Charles Dickens usually wrote rather dense prose, like Victorian literature in general. You know what I mean.
    The confusion arises from the fact that I've seen in dictionaries both the words tight and scant, which in this context I feel would mean different things. Basically the opposite in fact. In the context of talking about a book, what does knappur mean?
     
  2. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    Reykjavík
    English - UK
    The word concise has since been suggested to me. Something different again. Ég er rugluð...
     
  3. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    That's what instantly came into my head, but because I knew that thought came from the fact that Danish knap means that also (as well as sparse/scanty), I wasn't sure if it was the same in Icelandic. It does make sense because it's contrasted with interesting, in the sense of saying that something is concise is often related to lacking detail, yet we're told that it is short or to-the-point - but also interesting and quite funny.

    As far as I can tell, Old Norse knappa remained as such until Modern Mainland Scandinavian (i.e. in Danish until today) while in Old Norse/Old Icelandic it became hnippa (along with the whole host of other words that participated in the kn->hn word-initial shift; cf. Dan. kniv, Eng. knife & Ice. hnífur), which still exists as nudge etc., but then knappa was borrowed from Danish with that meaning (including 'concise'). Obviously the cognate in English is 'to nip' / 'nip', which also has connotations of a short and sudden thing. I think that's the correct meaning in your post, anyway.

    The only thing I'm not sure about is why it isn't úr þessari.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2013
  4. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    Reykjavík
    English - UK
    Because he's creating the frásögn from (úr) the efniviður, so úr doesn't affect the noun frásögn. Because of the way the sentence is worded, I don't think it actually affects any noun... Or at least that's how I'm understanding it.

    Looks like concise is the way to go, cheers!
     
  5. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Uhm, I did consider that but I either don't know that meaning of the phrasal usage (if it's idiomatic) or - at least in a way that would make sense to me, it's missing a "honum" after úr. That'd make perfect sense to me. Maybe it's just implied. Ironically I'm reading about object drop in German for a piece of reading I have to do, it looks like this might be an instance of it in Icelandic. It could be either possibility, I read it too quickly the first time and thought he created something from the story, not the 'malleable material'.
    If it is a fairly short story, then yes! :D
     
  6. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Is it too late to put in a vote for "terse"? :)
     
  7. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    Reykjavík
    English - UK
    Not at all, I have until Monday. Vote registered :)

    Edit: I'm also toying with brief.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2013
  8. qiaozhehui

    qiaozhehui Junior Member

    Sweden
    English - American
    The first thing that came to mind when I read your post was "short" or "brief" (a brief but entertaining account). But this is just because that's what the Swedish word 'knapp' means. In modern Swedish, the word more commonly has a connotation of "scanty", "insufficient" or "not quite enough", but I have no idea if this is the same in Icelandic.

    Thanks for the etymological info, Alxmrphi. Interestingly, the Svenska Akademiens ordbok claims that the word was originally borrowed from Low German. I imagine that both Danish and Swedish borrowed the word from Low German and then Icelandic got it, as you say, from Danish.

    Here's the entry from SAOB:


     
  9. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Out of all of the options, I definitely think brief works the best. Short would be find to be the least marked usage, but I think brief is what I'm naturally gravitating towards. Thanks qiaozhehui for the other etymological info. ;)
     
  10. NoMoreMrIceGuy Senior Member

    Kallinge, Sweden
    Icelandic
    Brief doesn't quite capture the meaning here. Knappt is most often used in the phrase knappur tími as in barely sufficient time. In the text Silver quoted I would say that the meaning of knappt has to do more with the meager content of the texts rather than the brevity.
     
  11. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    Reykjavík
    English - UK
    Um, wait, so back to sparse? I have to turn this in at some point today... Luckily brief can also mean limited in content rather than just short, so it probably does capture both meanings.
     
  12. Cagey non modo mod

    California
    English - US
    We sometimes describe writing that contains what is necessary, but nothing more, as spare. It does not have a negative connotation in this context.
     
  13. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    Reykjavík
    English - UK
    Yep, great. Stuck with brief, though, reckon it sounds best in this particular sentence.
     
  14. NoMoreMrIceGuy Senior Member

    Kallinge, Sweden
    Icelandic
    I would have voted for this one. It captures the meaning best.
     

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