Talking about the future

Posted on 08. Jan, 2015 by in Grammar

Courtesy of SkiStar at Flickr.

Courtesy of SkiStar at Flickr.

2015 is upon us, so I thought it would be a great idea to look a bit ahead – grammatically speaking, that is! As you may be aware, verbs in Spanish and Esperanto and many other languages have a distinct future tense (yo cantaré/mi kantos = I’ll sing). In English, we’ve got to make compound tricks like I’ll sing or I shall sing or I’m going to sing. You’ll see that norsk is quite similar to English in this respect! :-)

Norwegians often talk about framtida/fremtiden (the future) in presens (present tense):

  • Kongen kommer på søndag. (The King will arrive on Sunday.)
  • Om tjue år har alle hytter trådløst internett. (In twenty years all cabins will have a WiFi connection.)

A really common compound is kommer til å (’comes to to’), which can be translated as ”is going to”:

  • Snøen kommer til å lave ned! (The snow is gonna pour down massively!)
  • Tror du de kommer til å gifte seg i år? (Do you think they’re gonna marry this year?)

In Nynorsk Norwegian, the compound is kjem til å. This was used to make the peculiar phrase Nokon kjem til å komme (Someone is going to come, literally ’Someone is coming to come’), which is the name of a play by the famous Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse.

There are also less ”heavy” compounds, namely those starting with vil and skal. Even if they’re historically identical to the English words will and shall, they’re used a bit differently. I think some examples will be more useful than a long forklaring (explanation):

  • Vil det noen gang bli fred i verden? (Is there ever going to be peace in the world?)
  • Vi vil alltid være gode venner. (We’ll always be good friends.)
  • Til neste sommer vil jeg kjøpe meg en båt. (Next summer I’ll buy myself a boat./Next summer I wanna buy myself a boat.) – Vil means both ’want to’ and ’will’, so there’s often a bit of ambiguity with this word!
  • Hvor skal dere? (Where are you guys going [to go]?)
  • Vi skal besøke tante. (We’re going to visit auntie.)
  • Skal jeg hjelpe deg? (Am I gonna help you? = Do you need some help?) – The ”skal future” doesn’t seem to be so far away, does it? :-)

Word of the Year 2014

Posted on 31. Dec, 2014 by in Leisure, Vocabulary

’Emoji’ was one of the proposed ”Norwegian word of the year”.

’Emoji’ was one of the proposed ”Norwegian word of the year”. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

Every year a handful of Norwegian language geeks kårer årets norske ord (elect the Norwegian ”word of the year”). Språkrådet, the Norwegian Language Council, ranked the following ten candidates for 2014:

10. deleøkonomi (’share economy’) means that you share & recycle resources. Maybe you own a car together with your neighbour or borrow your best friend’s wedding costume…

9. A ståhjuling (’stand-wheelie’) is a segway. :-)

8. A luseskjørt (’lice skirt’) is a new technology to shield oppdrettslaks (bred salmons) from lus (lice).

7. Whenever the excitement of your tablet or cell phone makes you look like a humpback, you’re suffering from mobilnakke (’mobile neck’).

6. A gittercelle (grid cell) is a special kind of cell in your brain. The word was made popular by Norwegian scientists May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser, who both won this year’s Nobelpris in medisin.

5. Stordata is a neat Norwegization of ’big data’ (huge amounts of information that companies like Google are able to analyze).

4. Pøbelgran means ”mob spruce” and is a (non-Norwegian) spruce that’s growing outside a plantation, causing havoc among the local trær og planter (trees and plants)!

3. Emoji means the same as in English… :-)

2. When something ’goes viral’ in English, it now even går viralt in Norwegian. It may be a viral [virAHL] video, like last year’s Norwegian hit ’What Does the Fox Say?

1. Unfortunately, the winner is fremmedkriger (’foreign fighter’), which means someone who goes to another country to fight in a war. It could be a Norwegian who goes to Syria to join one of the groups fighting there. :-(

Språkteigen, a Norwegian radio show, had their own kåring (election). Their årets ord was a bit more uplifting:

robust [rohBOOHST]. It’s a loan from French (and ultimately Latin), meaning ’robust’ or ’sturdy’. It’s been around in Norway for decades if not centuries. However, according to Språkteigen’s Facebook page, Norwegian politicians have been using this word a lot in 2014, for example in the phrase: Vi skal ha robuste kommuner med robuste løsninger! (We need sturdy municipalities with sturdy solutions!)

Godt nyttår! See you in 2015!

Sprites of Christmas

Posted on 25. Dec, 2014 by in Traditions

A Scandinavian nisse. (Thanks to Anders Palovaara at Flickr.)

A Scandinavian nisse. (Thanks to Anders Palovaara at Flickr.)

If you go to Skandinavia in desember, you’ll most certainly encounter little men (and women) with pointy røde luer (red caps) everywhere: In butikker (shops), in private homes, på tv [paw teh-veh] (in television). No, you’re not mad! Say hello to the nisser

The typical nisse looks like an old man with a langt, hvitt skjegg [langt vitt shegg] (long, white beard) – except that he’s really small, like a child or even a rabbit. He’s wearing traditional clothes such as an ullgenser (woolen jersey). He’s often got tykke, røde kinn (fat round cheeks) and a jovial look. I think you wouldn’t mind having a grandfather like that! :-) On top of his head the famous nisselue looms large. It isn’t just a red version of a wizard’s hat – there typically is a white or red dusk (tuft) at the end.

Originally, a nisse was a kind of mythical being that helped farmers on their gård [gore] (farm). If the farmer didn’t treat him well, he could avenge himself by making sure that the goat gave birth to a kid with two heads – that kind of thing. In the Norwegian countryside people still talk about nisser; on the day before julekvelden (Christmas Eve, December 24th), traditional farmers will go out in the låve (barn) and place a skål grøt [skawl grert] (bowl of porridge) there so the local nisse won’t get hungry & angry…

In the towns and cities nisser are mostly associated with jul (Christmas) and moro (fun). Sometimes they’re mixed up with Julenissen (Santa Claus/Father Christmas). He was introduced to Scandinavia from the US, though, and hasn’t got very much in common with the Scandinavian nisser – except that they all wear red caps. Nisser aren’t just old men; there are also nissekoner (nisse wives) and nissebarn (nisse children).

Nisser make dark nights bristle with liv (life), and I can’t imagine Christmas without them. One of the most beloved julesanger (Christmas songs/carols) for children starts like this:

På låven sitter nissen med sin julegrøt,

in the barn the nisse is sitting with his Christmas porridge,

så god og søt, så god og søt.

so good and sweet, so good and sweet.

Han nikker, og han smiler, og han er så glad,

he’s nodding, he’s smiling, and he’s so happy,

for julegrøten vil han gjerne ha.

’cause the Christmas porridge he really wants.


God jul! [gohd yule]

Merry Christmas!