8 Unbelievably Strange Norwegian Words With Meanings Foreigners Cannot Guess

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MORKAKE – Copyright Tori Lind Kjellstad @Hyggelig drittsekk

“Why don’t you learn Chinese or Spanish, or any other language spoken by more than a few sheep and 5 million people” asked my parents while I was learning Norwegian.

My answer is always that Norwegian is a fantastic and very funny language. Some of the words the Norwegian language has created requires either a lot of imagination or high doses of hallucinative drugs to be understood. Here are 8 few words which puzzled me for hours, days, sometimes weeks. Good luck! and enjoy the beauty and creativity of Norwegian language.

1. The Mother’s Cake

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I was at a dinner with girlfriends when one started talking about her mother’s cake. Then came up a discussion I was completely comfortable with: what to do with your mother’s cake. Some froze it, some threw it away.
“What do you guys do in France with your mother’s cake?”.

“Well in France we are mostly in favour of eating things fresh and locally produced, when possible, so we eat it as fast as we can!” I answered with a smile. I mean, what else are you supposed to do with a cake? I asked.

“You can dry it, bury it” said one. Wait, bury it? What the hell are we talking about here?

Wait for it. It turns out “morkake” in Norwegian, or its literal translation “mother cake”, is a placenta. So much for eating fresh and locally produced food.

2. The Christmas Room

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At first when I heard the Norwegian word “Christmas Room” or romjul, I thought maybe since Norwegians love Christmas so much they have a special room in their house they celebrate Christmas in. They have the Christmas table (julebord) during which they eat Christmas food, so why not have their Christmas table in their Christmas room?

Nope, romjul is the time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. And they usually spend that time with family, in no particular room.

3. The Troll’s Bum

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Norway is the country of trolls, so it seems only natural that something might be called a troll’s bum. But when that word (rumpetroll) came up during a conversation in Norwegian about frogs, I got confused.

It turns out a troll’s bum is a tadpole for Norwegians. Go figure how much aquavit they had to drink to find the connection between a tadpole and a troll’s ass.

4. The One-Bedroom Flat Rabbits

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Ok this one might not be so hard for English speakers, but for me one-bedroom flats rabbits or hybelkanin in Norwegian does not ring any bell to my French ears. Then again, bunnies hopping around in a flat. It does sound a bit like dust bunnies.

5. The Morning Bread. 

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“What would you like this morning?” asked the baker lady.

“Your freshest bread from this morning” I said. (Ditt ferskeste morgenbrød! sa jeg)

“Javel” said the lady. “You’ll have to ask your boyfriend for that”.

“What???”. What does a boyfriend have to do with this.

“My boyfriend can’t bake” I replied.

“We all have our problems!” she said with a wink.

Morgenbrød does not mean morning bread. If you still don’t get it, ask a Norwegian. Children also read this site, cannot make it clearer than that.

6. The Quick Doctor

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After a few months of living and working in Norway I got sick. I was told I had to go to my fastlege, something I interpreted as “quick doctor”. I knew lege means doctor and assumed fast mean quick, as in English. I went to my first appointment, and was sure of one thing: fast had to mean the same thing as in English, because the doctor used around 6 minutes with me before kicking me out to see his next patient.

Maybe the slow doctors who have time for patients are only for Norwegian people, I thought.

8 years down the line, I found out fast means permanent, and a fastlege is your assigned doctor in Norway. Sadly, Norwegians don’t get doctors who have more time for patients, you just need to find a good one and stick with him/her.

7. The Witch’s Shot

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This one is called hekseskudd in Norwegian. When the witch shots you in the back you get a ….LUMBAGO!

Seriously, guys. Easy on the aquavit when finding associations like this.

8.  The Fooling Mouse 

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Guess what a mouse is? Yep, a pussy. And guess what a fooling mouse is? Yep, a tease. And guess who wrote a blogpost making up a new Norwegian word to call male tease something? Me! I came up with lurepinne. It means the fooling stick. A Northern Norwegian and slightly less nuanced version is lurekukk.

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Want to read more humour texts on how to understand the Norwegians? Check out my book here!

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22 thoughts on “8 Unbelievably Strange Norwegian Words With Meanings Foreigners Cannot Guess

  1. … and then there’s the Alien Control Blanket (Fremmedkontrollblanketten –
    presumably a primitive star wars programme? ). And the Jesus Lever – a piece of graffiti that I saw a lot in the 80s. What’s that? Something you pull to get saved? (Or just the Norwegian for “Jesus lives”…)

    1. That depends on the tone.

      ja = yes
      vel = well (interjection)

      * A disrespectful “OK, I’ll do it” (often to you parents)
      * Yes, what ever. (you give up explaining/convincing an other person)
      * Ok, I see, followed by a question for qualification.
      * An opening statement of hello to start a conversation. “javel, åssen går det” = “Hi, how are you doing”
      * A “really, tell me more” when you hear the beginning of a gossip story.

  2. Dette holder ikke mål. De engelske oversettelsene dine er fullstendig ubrukelige og forvirrende. Jeg som nordmann burde i det minste skjønne hva du skriver om for at denne skriblingen skal ha noen legitimitet. Chrismas Room f.eks. er jo bare babbel. Og at hekseskudd liksom er lumbago har jeg aldri hørt om. Hekseskudd foregår i skulderparti, nakke og hode. The Troll’s bum er jo like meningsløst, for hva ville en nordmann heller prøvd seg med, jo: ass troll. Osv. osv.

    1. Hekseskudd er lumbago. Det er slik jeg kjenner ordet og det er slik wikipedia, Felleskatalogen og Lommelegen.no bruker det.
      I rompetroll og romjul er orddelene er i feil rekkefølge og det gjør oversettelsene tvilsomme. Men samtidig viser dine egne forsøk at det ikke er så lett å finne noen helt gode oversettelser som også er litt morsomme.

    2. Figgo, du kunne prøve å sjekke litt før du skriver så skarpt. Google viser fort til flere seriøse sider som kobler hekseskudd og lumbago. I motsetning til deg har jeg engelsk som morsmål og jeg synes absolutt ikke FrogInTheFjords “utenlandsk” bruk av engelsk er noe verre enn din “ass troll”. Tvertimot. Ass (eller det britiske arse) er en adskillig dårligere oversettelse for rumpe enn bum, for rumpe er jo et penere ord enn begge disse. Bum er faktisk en ganske god oversettelse – min aldrende mor kunne godt si bum, men aldri arse.

      1. “Troll” kan også bety “lite kryp” eller “ett eller annet ubestemmelig kryp eller innsekt”. Det trenger ikke bety “ond eller dum kjempe som i folkeeventyrene”. “Rumpetroll” betyr derfor “lite kryp med hale”, en nokså presis betegnelse. Komikken framkommer når man ikke kjenner ddn førstnevnte betydningen.

  3. Hi,

    In Italian they say “colpo della strega” or “Blow from the witch” for lumbago, too.

    Love your blog! It’s so interesting to read an “outsider’s” view of the country, as it is where there lies this cultural clash that sparks reflection on social norms.

  4. Haha, this was so hilarious! I didnt realize until now how ridiculous some of these might seem to outsiders. 😂

  5. Hekseskudd er lumbago. Det er slik jeg kjenner ordet og det er slik wikipedia, Felleskatalogen og Lommelegen.no bruker det.
    I rompetroll og romjul er orddelene er i feil rekkefølge og det gjør oversettelsene tvilsomme. Men samtidig viser dine egne forsøk at det ikke er så lett å finne noen helt gode oversettelser som også er litt morsomme.

  6. Rompetroll is not the troll’s bum. It’s a troll in/of the bum. It would have to be spelled «trollrumpe» to mean a troll’s bum. Bum can be both «rompe» and «rumpe» in Norwegian. I have used them as would be «correct» on purpose.

  7. “Rumpetroll” is a compund word made of “rumpe” meaning tail and “troll” which in this case means ugly bug. “Rumpetroll” literally means ugly bug with tail.

  8. Hallo!
    The German language use the same expression for “hekseskudd” : Hexenschuss!
    I guess we drink as much Aquavit as the Norwegian 🙂
    Nice blog, tusen takk!

  9. A fastlege does not mean a quick doctor. “Fast” means something is permanent. Therefore a fastlege is just the doctor you usually go to

  10. Another Norwegian word that may produce some interesting inner pictures for an English speaking person is “fartskontroll”. Too bad that “fart”=”speed”.

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