Vanishing wit and wisdom from a cold climate

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DURING the long Icelandic winter nights, which are longer and darker than we can imagine, one way of stopping yourself going mad is writing graffiti in the snow, which are there for everyone to ponder for a season and then melt away in springtime. Not silly slogans like our graffiti, but thoughtful and philosophical graffiti, the fruit of a whole night's thought. Here are some samples from a recent anthology of Icelandic snow graffiti.

The front light of a bike can be taken off and used for lots of other purposes, but there is no alternative use for a bicycle back light.

Which is the top end of a rugby ball?

America is the only place in the world where American football is unknown. In America, American football is just called football. One might as well go into a bar in Scotland and ask for Scotch. They have never heard of Scotch in Scotland.

For hundreds of years men have been having swimming races against each other, a thing that fish have never done, yet fish can still swim twice as fast as men.

Short name, long bladder. (No, I'm sorry - I don't known what this means either.)

There is no such thing as the 'seafront'. The 'seafront' would only make sense if there was such a thing as the 'seaback'.

A hundred years from now, when drugs will be a legal and normal part of athletics, and people will be banned only for not taking certain substances, Ben Johnson will be posthumously reinstated as the fastest man in the 20th century. Which he already is, of course.

Yes, but what do you clean a lavatory brush with?

When buttons do a useful job, they are replaced by zips or Velcro. When they are totally useless, they are left in place. That is why jackets still have fake cuff buttons and why button-down collars will still remain on shirts when all else has gone.

Daughters often borrow their mothers' clothes, but sons only inherit their fathers'.

What distinguishes man (and woman) from all other animals is that man (and woman) alone can skate backwards, on ice, with one leg in the air, to the strains of badly amplified Tchaikovsky. It is, thank heavens, not the only difference.

If putting -ology on the end of a word made it a science, then theology would be a recognised fact- based study, instead of the branch of fairy story research which it actually is. If theologists are not depressed by this, it is because many fairy stories have more to tell us than many facts.

A drawing-room, a drawing- board and a drawing-pin have only one thing in common: you can't draw with any of them.

We shall never know for sure if the ancient Egyptians invented scratch 'n' sniff books.

What's the point of getting your hair cut? It only grows again.

Short name, long bladder. (I have just found out that this obscure saying is apparently a reference to the peculiarly Icelandic male habit of writing your name in the snow as you spend a penny. Sorry about that. I wouldn't have included it if I had known.)

When you think how many famous dishes are named after famous opera singers, it is amazing that Pavarotti is the only opera singer who has a famous weight problem.

Ars longa, Vita Sackville-West.

'State of the art' is the name given by hopeful salesmen to products that will be obsolete tomorrow morning.

The mushroom and the umbrella: the same design solution to two very different problems.

If you go south from Iceland to find some warmth, you will eventually end up in Inverness.

To a crab, all human beings walk sideways.

Throw a snowball and start a glacier.