A love letter to the Danish sky

Posted on 30. Jun, 2014 by in Nature, Tourism

Everybody knows that Denmark is not Copacabana. Does such a sad thing as the Danish himmel, where all that cold regn [rhyne] (rain) originates, really deserve a kærlighedsbrev (love-letter)? Well, take a look at the classical oil paintings of Skagensmalerne (the Skagen painters). P.S. Krøyer, Mickael Ancher, Anna Ancher and the others – they were all enchanted by the infinite lyseblå (bright blue) of the sky, mirrored in the ocean on both sides of the Skagen peninsula (the northernmost “branch” of Jutland). Even with skyer (clouds) they found it so smuk (beautiful) that they left their original homes and settled down in Skagen to capture lyset (the light).

Carl locher skagen september 1913

“Skagen september 1913″ by Carl Locher

If you fancy a selfie in front of the “bright Nordic skies”, though, there are other options than Skagen. After all, Denmark is a flat country, where one half is made of veje (roads), marker (fields), øer (islands) and vand (water). The other half is made of clouds and solnedgange (sunsets).

People coming from bjergrige lande (mountainous countries) are often surprised by the wide horizons in Denmark. There is so much sky that the country virker større end det faktisk er (seems bigger than it actually is). It does take some time, however, to appreciate. If you live in a
wild country with a lot of amazing landscapes, Denmark most probably will seem a bit kedelig (boring) at first. Skønheden (the beauty) is in the details. Walk slowly, and the sky will open!

Okay, most Danes har benene solidt plantet på jorden (“have their legs solidly grown i the earth” = are down-to-earth-ish), and spend more time looking at screens and each other than looking up. But we also love talking about vejret [vare-eth] (the weather) and how bad or cold or lovely it is. If you’ve ever felt the gentle sun on a Danish beach, or driven through idyllic-but-monotonous villages of røde murstenshuse (red brick houses), or bopped along to the groove among the people on the huge plains of the Roskilde music festival, you’ll see why people still refer to the legend that claims the Danish flag fell from the sky…

Mind your inversion

Posted on 29. Jun, 2014 by in grammar

Master Yoda - origami

The sequence of words important is, yes!

Danish grammar has a tiny detail that always gives away foreigners: Inversion. That basically means that in some situations you have to change the word order, and if you forget to do that in those situations, well, then you sound like a foreigner… :-)

There’s inversion in English too. To make a phrase like “you are happy” into a question, you simply make the subject and the verb switch places: Are you happy? (With other verbs than “to be” it gets more complicated, but let’s leave that for now.) As you know, Danish make questions in the same way: Du er glad > Er du glad?

Let’s make that last example negative: Du er ikke glad (You are not happy) > Er du ikke glad? (Are you not happy?) Once again, Danish and English are like two peas in a pod.

Okay, let’s turn our example into a dependent clause:

Du siger at du er glad. (You say that you are happy. – As you maybe remember from school, a dependent clause is part of a main clause. “that you are happy” cannot stand on its own. Note that the Danish phrase can also be written with a comma after “siger”: Du siger, at du er glad.)

And the negative one:

Du siger at du ikke er glad. (You say that you are not happy.)

Finally we see the difference between the two languages. In Danish, the word “ikke” does a backwards summersault and places itself in front of the verb in dependent clauses: Du er ikke > Du siger at du ikke er…

The same goes for other words of the same kind, that is, adverbs that somehow influence the meaning of the whole sentence, such as tit (often), aldrig (never), altid (always), bare (just):

Han tager tit til Fyn. (He often goes to Funen.) > Jeg har hørt at han tit tager til Fyn. (I’ve heard that he often goes to Funen.)

Hun så bare træt ud. (She just looked tired.) > Det er hende der bare så træt ud. (It’s her that just looked tired.)

Du ringer aldrig. (You never call.) > Jeg forstår ikke hvorfor du aldrig ringer. (I don’t understand why you never call.)


Denmark’s Great Little Gift to the World

Posted on 31. May, 2014 by in Design, Economy, Tourism

There isn’t a thing you can’t build with LEGO! (Shared according to the Creative Commons lisence at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Lego_Winter_Village_-_10199_Toy_Shop#mediaviewer/File:Lego_Winter_Village_-_10199_Toy_Shop_(6901016075).jpg)

There isn’t a thing you can’t build with LEGO! (Shared at Wikimedia Commons.)

Did you watch the official LEGO movie this spring? It might be due time to dedicate some lines to Denmark’s most cherished opfindelse (invention, literally ”finding-up”)…

Der var engang en snedker, der hed Ole Kirk Christiansen. Han boede i den lille by Billund… (Once upon a time there was a carpenter, called Ole Kirk Christiansen. He lived in the small town of Billund…) Ole loved making legetøj (toys, literally ”play-toy”) for the kids to play with, so in 1932 he founded his own firma (firm), specializing in trælegetøj (wooden toys). One day the opfindsom (inventive) man found the perfect name for his firm: He took simply took the first letters of the words leg godt (play well), and combined them like two LEGO bricks.

Shortly after anden verdenskrig (WW2), when Denmark was occupied by German troops, Christiansen experimented with plastic materials. This led to the launch of the first legoklodser (LEGO bricks), with four and eight knopper (knobs). They didn’t connect very well, however, so it was only in 1958, when Ole’s son Godtfred introduced the modern LEGO brick, that the company won national, and soon international, fame. Godtfred’s bricks contained little rør (tubes) that helped them stick together, even when a kid turned her little LEGO house upside-down…

Ten years later, in 1968, Legoland opened in Billund. This was the first major forlystelsespark (amusement park) based on LEGO bricks. Sculptures and miniature European cities were built entirely out of LEGO bricks, making Legoland the biggest Danish tourist attraction outside Copenhagen (and bolstering up Billund lufthavn as Denmark’s second most busy airport). Today there are Legolands even in California, Florida, London, Germany and Malaysia.

Hvorfor er lego så populært? (Why is LEGO so popular?) Well, with LEGO you can make alt (everything)! With just a few basic shapes, children can build everything from biler (cars) to huse (houses) and space stations. Fantasien kender ingen grænser. (The imagination knows no limits.) It’s almost like having a white stykke papir (piece of paper) and a lot of farver (colours).

If you’re a bit geeky, it’s fun to notice how the colour palette of LEGO has been expanding through the years. The first LEGO bricks used only the basic colours of sort (black), hvid (white), blå (blue), rød (red), gul (yellow), then grøn (green) and grå (grey) were added, then came brun (brown). Today’s LEGO sets have every colour imaginable, even lyserød (pink) and orange [orANGshurh] (orange).

Computerspil (computer games) almost killed LEGO. But then the Kristiansen – as it is now spelt – family got the glimrende idé (brilliant idea) of making deals with Hollywood. They started to make LEGO packages with scenes from movies like Harry Potter, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. Furthermore, ”non-brick” products like children’s clothes, computer games and movies went into production… Nu ser du hvordan det gik! (Now you see how it went!)

Do you or your children play with LEGO? What is the most remarkable thing you’ve built? (Feel free to share photo links in the comments section!)