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Iceland Mag


Reykjavík names a street after Darth Vader from Star Wars

By Magnús Sveinn Helgason

  • Location of future Darth Vader street The red circle shows the location of the street Svarthöfði, which translates either as Dark-cape or Darth Vader. 

The Reykjavík City Council has approved a motion to rename a street in the industrial district of Höfði after the Sith Lord Darth Vader. The suggestion came out first in a poll on the city website Better Reykjavík, which allows citizens to prioritize and suggest new city projects or allocation of funds to make Reykjavík a better city.

The mayor of Reykjavík, Dagur B. Eggertsson announced this on his Twitter–feed yesterday.



Darth Vader and Icelandic language purism
The street will be named Svarthöfði, or Black-head, which is the Icelandic name of the Sith Lord. Iceland pursues what Jackson Crawford, who teaches modern Icelandic at the University of California Berkley, has called “language purism”. Icelanders usually develop new Icelandic terms for new or modern concepts and phenomena. When the first Star Wars movie was released in 1977 the name of Darth Vader was translated as Blackhead.

Read more: Courses in modern Icelandic offered at UC Berkeley this fall

The street which has now been renamed had previously been called Bratthöfði, and is in the Höfði industrial district. Every street in the Höfði district ends with the word höfði, which can mean both the body part head, or the geographic feature cape. Bratthöfði, for example, means Steep-cape, but will now be called Svarthöfði. 

Read more: House numbers on Darth Vader street to be arranged Star Wars-style

Sci-fi fans have always dreamt of having one of the streets in the district named Svarthöfði, which could be taken to mean either Black-cape or Black-head, the Icelandic name for Darth Vader. The re-naming of one of the Höfði-streets as Darth Vader is thus a great example of the creative possibilities of Icelandic language purism: Far from making the language stale, it opens up all kinds of fun possibilities for creative people!

 Jón Gnarr, Yoko Ono, Lady Gaga

Jón Gnarr, Yoko Ono and Lady Gaga The former mayor of Reykjavík, comedian Jón Gnarr liked to appear publicly dressed as Jedi master Obi Van Kenobi, the mentor of Anakin Skywalker, who later became the Sith lord Darth Vader. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

Direct democracy at work, and play
The idea came out on top in the Better Reykjavík democratic initiative, which was launched in 2010. Citizens register with the same electronic ID they use to submit their taxes electronically. Once registered as members of the forum citizens can both propose projects or ideas and vote on their prioritization. 

Each month those ideas which have received most votes are discussed by the City Council at special meetings, and the best projects are included in the city budget. The forum is also used to solicit citizen feedback on ideas and projects, including the planned introduction of fees at the Reykjavík Geothermal Beach, Nauthólsvík.

Past proposals which have come out of the forum include the decision to transform Laugavegur street, the main shopping street in downtown Reykjavík, into a pedestrian street in 2012. One of the top trending ideas now is a proposal to add free wi-fi services to Metropolitan buses.

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