Actually, all Icelandic women say “Yow,” but only when they’re being positive. It happens that the word for “Yes” in Icelandic is Já, which is pronounced Yow. I repeatedly cracked up hearing conversations among women in which they kept Yowing back and forth to one another.
One day, while I was eating dinner at the Hotel Vestmannaeyjar’s Einsi Kaldi Restaurant in Heimaey, the Icelandic girls’ soccer team walked in, still wearing their field uniforms. (There had been a national soccer tournament in Heimaey, which complicated my getting a hotel booking in town.) After swooning at the impact of the beauty of so many Viking princesses at one time, I was amused by all the Yowing that went on as they described the game just completed.
Ever since Quentin Tarantino made a famous comment about young Icelandic women in a Conan O’Brien appearance about “supermodels working at McDonald’s,” stories and myths have abounded about the legendary beauty of Reykjavík girls. (BTW, McDonald’s pulled out of the country because they couldn’t compete with the local hamburger restaurants, which are pretty good.) Much of what he said is about the party scene in Reykjavík—which can get extreme with young women becoming seriously drunk and (presumably) available—is uncomplimentary and not a little insulting.
With my advanced age and scruffy looks, I did not presume to partake in any party scenes. Instead, I dealt with numerous Icelandic women throughout the island and found them to have a great sense of fun.
When I was in Isafjörður, I met a young guide named Thelma (pronounced “Talma”) from West Tours, with whom I took a trip to Vigur Island (about which more at another time). All the time I was there, I kept running into her at various places—it was a village of only 2,000 or so—and she remembered me each time and stopped to chat with me.
Okay, so maybe they saw “Yow” a lot, but Icelandic women are all right in my book.