Colourful as it is, the Icelandic languages is packed with peculiar idioms, some of which require a dose of explanation when translated. One such term is rassgat which, simply put, means asshole. But would you use this word in the typical way, or are their far stranger contexts in which it is fitting?

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Often, accusing someone of being an asshole is considered insulting; a curse word likely followed by fisticuffs and more swearing.

In Iceland, however, the term is most commonly used to connote cuteness, be it in a small terrier or a newborn baby. Funnily enough, rassgat can also be used to describe exactly what it says… the rectum.

How the meaning of asshole came to be turned on its head is something of a mystery. Rúsínurassgat, (literally “raisin-asshole”) may be the words original form, where rúsína (“raisin”) alone was used as the nickname for adorable things before rassgat came to be added.

But why did this conjunction come to be? What do raisins and assholes have to do with one another, and why use them together to describe sweet and precious subjects?

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The Icelandic words snúlla and dúlla are also used as terms of endearment and require pouty lips in order to pronounce them correctly. Rúsína requires this same lip shape, which lends itself to being used alongside other words. Hence, the alliteration of rúsínurassgat somehow feels correct and natural when spoken.

Another word that Icelanders use for the same meaning is englabossi, which can be translated to Angel-butt. Exactly why the derriere is again utilised to describe how adorable something is is left up to debate.

A young baby in the snow.

Rassgat is used to describe adorable things, be they babies or animals. Credit: Pixabay.

There are other usages of the word rassgat, the first of which is to describe a destination that is isolated and distant, far out in the middle of nowhere with little chance of drawing in visitors. Speaking of such a town, Icelanders would say “Þessi bær er lengst útí rassgati”.

In the UK, this would equate to “the arse-end of nowhere”, as in, “this town is out in the arse end of nowhere.” Americans, on the other hand, will best know it as “out in the boonies/boondocks

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Rassgat can still be used as a term of offence in certain scenarios. For example, one can be told “Hoppaðu upp í rassgatið á þér”, basically “to leap up your own arse.”, the Icelandic version of “go f*** yourself”.

Nevertheless, if during your stay in Iceland you hear the term rassgat applied to you, there’s an excellent chance you’re being complimented on your sugary good looks.

Count yourself lucky, you handsome, beautiful asshole.

How did you find our explanation of the Icelandic term, Rassgat? What other Icelandic words would you like to read about? Make sure to leave your queries and thoughts in the Facebook comments section below.