Faroese: kjaftsvart í mjørka


Senior Member

I am translating a French text about the Faroe Islands and one sentence actually includes some Faroese:

Mais l'épais brouillard qui noyait la veille, le kjaftsvart í mjørka, "brouillard noir" comme le surnomment les locaux, a disparu et la vue depuis le promontoire de Klakkur est dégagée.

This basically means:

But the impenetrable fog which had engulfed the peaks the previous night, the kjaftsvart í mjørka, "black fog", as the locals have dubbed it, has dispersed and the view from Klakkur Promontory is now unimpeded.

Firstly, I don't think that "kjaftsvart í mjørka" means "black fog" as the author states, but rather "mouth-black in the fog". There is a preposition between "black" and "fog", so even if one leaves out the potentially confusing "mouth/snout" part, one cannot simply say that the fog is black.

Secondly, the author has basically placed "kjaftsvart í mjørka" in apposition to "impenetrable fog", thus equating the two, but since "kjaftsvart í mjørka" does not appear to be a noun phrase, this sounds illogical. As far as I gather from having briefly consulted a Faroese dictionary as well as a simple Google search, "kjaftsvart í mjørka" is used predicatively (with a copula), e.g. "tað er kjaftsvart í mjørka" or "kjaftsvart var í mjørka", so placing "kjaftstvart í mjørka" in apposition to "impenetrable fog" seems to run into the same problem as the hypothetical "*but the torrential rain which had flooded the town, "it's raining cats and dogs", as the locals call it...". If this is indeed the case, I would need to correct the original French into something like:

The impenetrable fog had engulfed the peaks last night - it had been kjaftsvart í mjørka, "black in the fog", as the locals are wont to say - but it has dispersed and the view from Klakkur Promontory is now unimpeded.

Could someone who has actual knowledge of Faroese (or perhaps Icelandic, if it could help with the issue at hand), unlike me, confirm or refute my suspicions?

Thank you in advance
  • I am no authority on Faroese, but since no native speakers of that language appear to be active on this forum I will try to answer this.

    First, there is something missing in the text as quoted: the phrase l'épais brouillard qui noyait la veille doesn’t really make sense. According to this link, the sentence should read Mais l'épais brouillard qui noyait les lieux la veille, le kjaftsvart í mjørka…, etc., in which case the translation “engulfed the peaks” seems incorrect.

    Second, phrases such as tað er kjaftsvart í mjørka and kjaftsvart er í mjørka appear to be very common. (The word kjaftsvart can be replaced with kavtroðið, kavmyrkt or tjúkt, and no doubt others.) Icelanders who have visited the Faroe Islands have been known to quote these as a colorful way to describe the dense fog that often descends on the islands and sometimes obscures the view for days on end.

    I agree that kjaftsvart í mjørka should probably not be interpreted as a noun phrase, and that come kind of rephrasing is in order.

    Third, kjaftur refers to the mouth of an animal. Therefore, kjaftsvart has a vague suggestion of something wilder than ‘black’ or ’mouth-black’ (if there is a way to convey that in English).

    Finally, although the French text refers to Klakkur as a promontory, I believe that the Faroese usually think of it as a mountain or peak, so calling it, for instance, ‘Mt. Klakkur’ is perhaps preferable (if you can permit yourself that kind of flexibility in the translation).
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