Publisher apologises for poor translation

Publisher says that he’s sorry that the word ‘intersex’ is being translated into Icelandic as ‘freak’ in a biological terminology, used in local schools. The translation has been criticized by Intersex Iceland.

“I completely agree, this translations is unacceptable and I wish to apologise for the hurt feelings it may have caused,” says Kári Örlygsson, publisher and distributor of a biology terminology, where the word ‘intersex’ is translated as ‘freak’ (i. ‘viðrini’). The translation has been harshly criticised by the chair of Intersex Iceland, Kitty Anderson, who thinks it’s disturbing that a terminology containing such a translation is being used as a teaching material in schools.

The biology glossary in question is used in three local colleges.
Intersex is translated as freak in this biology terminology used by three local colleges. Apart from that, intersex is still being translated as freak in several Icelandic dictionaries. Amongst them the Icelandic-English dictionary, published by Forlagið and sold in the Eymundsson-stores.

The terminology in question, titled “Ensk-íslenskur orðalisti fyrir líffræði”, is used in three local colleges, and was originally put together by Kári’s uncle, biology teacher Árni Heimir Jónsson, who passed away in 2006. After his day Kári, who is a translator by profession, took on the role of its distributor.

It was last reprinted in 2010, but why hasn’t it been revised?

“Merely because I got no remarks about it at the time,” Kári answers and explains that current copies are from that time, 2010. “However since then a student has actually sent me a complaint about the translation via email, pointing out that intersex is being translated as freak in the terminology, so I am aware of the matter. And I’m very thankful I was told about it.”

Two different Icelandic public dictionaries have already changed the translation of intersex in their online glossaries, removing the word freak. In light of that and the afore-mentioned criticism from Intersex Iceland, will you revise the terminology?

“Of course. As I say the word ‘freak’ should never be used in relation to intersex. Its insulting, its demeaning.”

“…this translations is totally unacceptable, and I wish to apologise for the hurt feelings it may have caused.”

Kitty Anderson from Intersex Iceland has criticised the translation. Photo/Birkir Jónsson.
Kitty Anderson from Intersex Iceland has criticised the translation.
Photo/Birkir Jónsson.

How long will it take for that to happen?

“It would be ideal to publish a revised edition online, even though it could take time. That way its much easier to make changes and prevent things like this from happening again,” says Kári and stresses once again how sorry he is.

Kári says that if users have any other remarks about the terminology, they can contact him by sending an email to

Main photo shows Reykjavik Junior College (i. Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík), one of the colleges where the terminology is used.

The photo is a black and white version of picture taken by Helgi Halldórsson/Freddi

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