Colour your tongue!

Posted on 28. May, 2016 by in Learning, Vocabulary

(Photo by Morten Oddvik at Flickr, CC License.)

(Photo by Morten Oddvik at Flickr, CC License.)

Can you imagine a day without farver (colours)? It’s no wonder that many language courses are quick to introduce a few colours. Here are the basic ones in Danish – can you guess the meaning of the words?

1 rød

2 blå

3 gul

4 grøn

5 brun

6 orange [oRANGSHeh]

7 lilla

8 sort

9 hvid [veeth]

10 grå

Yes, that’s right: red – blue – yellow – green – brown – orange – lilac – black – white – grey. Except for gul and sort, I guess they’re somewhat transparent for an English speaker. Another common word is lyserød which means ”light red” or ”pink” – you’ll even hear some Danes using the English word pink with a Danish twist (so it sounds like ”penk”).

Se min kjole (Look at my dress) is a children’s song which uses a lot of colour words:

Se min kjole, den er grøn som græsset
Look at my dress, it’s green like the grass
alt hvad jeg ejer, det er grønt som den.
all that I own is green like it.
Det er forbi, jeg elsker alt det grønne
that’s because I love everything green,
og fordi en jæger er min ven.
and because a hunter is my friend.

Se min kjole, den er blå som havet (the ocean)
alt hvad jeg ejer, det er blåt som den.
Det er forbi, jeg elsker alt det blå
og fordi en sømand (sailor) er min ven.

Se min kjole, den er rød som rosen (the rose)
alt hvad jeg ejer, det er rødt som den.
Det er forbi, jeg elsker alt det røde
og fordi et postbud (postman) er min ven.

Se min kjole, den er hvid som sneen (the snow),
alt hvad jeg ejer, det er hvidt som den.
Det er forbi, jeg elsker alt det hvide
og fordi en møller (miller) er min ven.

Se min kjole, den er sort som kullet (the coal),
alt hvad jeg ejer, det er sort som den.
Det er forbi, jeg elsker alt det sorte
og fordi en skorstensfejer (chimney sweep) er min ven.

I’ve left out the first and the last verses (you can read them here). Maybe you’ve remarked that the word blå, unlike the other colour words used here, never gets an e ending attached. But let’s save the grammar talk for another post! 🙂

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Oops! The Danish Irony

Posted on 19. May, 2016 by in Conversation, Daily Life, Fun

(”Oh the irony back home in #denmark”, courtesy of Sakena at Flickr, CC License.)

(”Oh the irony back home in #denmark”, courtesy of Sakena at Flickr, CC License.)

”Det var bare mega fedt!” (It was just mega nice!) The guy telling this to his friend had lost his bilnøgler (car keys), topping a rather awful day where everything just went wrong. Fortunately, his friend was a Dane accustomed to ironi [eeronEEh] (irony). She understood that losing the keys hadn’t been a nice experience at all – her friend was just taking a jab at the situation. By faking positivity, he distanced himself from the bad day and made it into something they could both relate to in a sjov (fun) way.

What’s ironi? Well, basically you say something you don’t actually mean. For a Dane, it’s something totally different from lying, since you always expect the others to understand ironien and maybe share a little laugh. It’s really an ingrained part of Danish culture and humor (humour). In a serious situation, like an ildebrand [ILLehbrahn] (big fire), Danes do use serious phrases where they say exactly what they mean. In relaxed day-to-day situations, however, the air always has a faint smell of ironi.

Is ironi taught at Danish courses? Ironically enough, hardly ever. Foreigners with perfect Danish skills start interacting with Danes – and boom! irony hits, leaving everybody confused. It’s really an in-society thing that maybe takes some time to ”get”. 🙂

Here are a couple of real-life examples where irony has created misunderstandings between Danes and non-Danes:

At a meeting about cleaning a students’ dorm:
Danish guy [with ironic intonation]: Well, it’ll be like that, ’cause I’m the corridor President!
Romanian girl [in earnest]: Are you?

Me in England, the ”mad cow disease” is in the media, and a beef has just fallen from a grill into the grass:
Me [ironically, while picking up the beef with a fork]: Well, I guess it doesn’t make a huge difference anyway…
English teacher [in earnest, offended]: Thank you…!

In the Copenhagen airport, a Danish airport hostess is helping an Asian woman get her boarding card:
Asian woman [earnestly]: Thank you, that was so quick!
Danish woman [ironically and proudly]: Yeah, I’ve got magic fingers!
Asian woman [completely bewildered]: …

Have you been the victim of irony? Please tell in the comments section! 🙂

Denmark in Tokyo

Posted on 01. May, 2016 by in Denmark and the World, Food

(All photos by Bjørn A. Bojesen.)

(All photos by Bjørn A. Bojesen.)

Coming from et lille land (a small country), many Danes worry what foreigners – especially Americans – think about them. Whenever the tennis player Caroline Wozniacki or another Danish kendis [KENN-diss] (famous person) gets ”big in the U.S.A.”, Danish journalister [shoor-] (journalists) seem to get really busy. 🙂 But some Danes get, as the saying goes, ”big in Japan”. Being on a family visit in Tokyo, I was surprised to find the following LEGO-mand in the busy Ikebukuro station:


I have no idea whether the customers at the Andersen bageri [bakery] know the meaning of the word HYGGE, but it did appear throughout the shop as a kind of magical formula, apparently. 🙂 De ansatte [dee ANNsatteh] (the employees) were wearing little Dannebrog flags on their red uniforms, while receiving betaling (payment) for vaguely ”Danish-ish” brød og kager (breads and cakes). When the lady at the kasse (counter) got aware of the nationality of my companion and myself, she smilingly offered us an extra bow. As far as I can tell, the Tokyo concept of ”Danishness” (danskhed) seems to be linked to creamy cakes and søde ting (sweet things):


A Japanese woman in her twenties told me that most of her compatriots know Den Lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid), often from the Disney version of the H.C. Andersen eventyr (fairytale). Other than that, few Japanese know anything about Danish culture or Denmark, bortset fra at det ligger i Europa (besides that it’s situated in Europe). Some may have heard though, she told me, that Denmark is a ”very happy” country. Of course, dansk design is also found in Tokyo’s butikker (stores).


The next time you’re in Copenhagen, cross the street in front of hovedbanegården (the central station). With a bit of house-scanning, you should find a Japanese Andersen bakery! There you can read the fascinating story about a young Japanese man who went to Denmark and forelskede sig i landet (fell in love with the country). When he later returned home, he founded his own Danish-style bakery chain and branded it with the most famous Danish efternavn (surname) on earth. With an outlet in København, the story has come full circle. 🙂