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