Ylvis Explained

Posted on 27. Jul, 2014 by in Humor, Music, Politics

YlvisAfter Ylvis had the whole world wondering WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY? back in September 2013, the Norwegian comedy band have been enjoying global stardom. They have been guests at American talkshows, and their other songs have received many clicks on YouTube. Selv om de synger på engelsk (even if they sing in English), there are a couple of words and cultural references which may confuse Non-Norwegians. Jeg skal prøve å forklare dem: (I’ll try to explain them:)




The Cabin 

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• This is a perfect parody of hytta, the place where many Norwegians go when they have some days off and need to relax. The point is to enjoy naturen (Nature) and spend some quality time with your family or friends. With all the beautiful sceneries in Norway, you don’t need a lot of entertainment, a game of kinasjakk (china chess) or a kortspill (a deck of cards) might be enough. Many people keep their cabins a bit ”primitive” on purpose, even if they could afford to buy new cutlery etc. An awful lot of Norwegians seem to have this romantic idea of conquering steep mountains, being alone in the woods among wild animals, etc. To people who haven’t spent time in Norway I guess Ylvis are quite right that the whole hytte thing may look like a joke! :-)

• At 3:53 there are the strange lyrics You know there’s no such thing as bad weather/Only bad kleather.This is a fun way of ”translating” a proverb every Norwegian knows: Det finnes ikke dårlig vær/Bare dårlige klær. ”There’s no bad weather, only bad clothes.” (Strangely, Norwegian children aren’t always motivated when their parents tell them this!)


Jan Egeland

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JePak (128)

The real Jan Egeland.

• Mr. Egeland is a Norwegian politician who’s done a lot of work as fredsmegler (peace mediator) in FN (Forente Nasjoner = United Nations). I guess the rest Ylvis are singing about him is a bit exaggerated, but anyway, it’s nice that they highlight one of all those silent, hardworking helter (heroes) you don’t normally hear about. The fun part here for Norwegians is the mock-American pronunciation: In Norwegian, the name is pronounced [yaan EHghelann] (hard G and dark A’s).

The Oslo treaty plan refers to the ”Oslo Accord” in 1993. It was an attempt to make fred (peace) between Israelis and Palestinians.

Gahr Støre refers to Jonas Gahr Støre, who used to be the Norwegian utenriksminister (Minister of Foreign Affairs, 2005-2012).

Not a daddy’s boy like Jens refers to the former statsminister (PM) Jens Stoltenberg [Yens…], the son of the legendary politician Thorvald Stoltenberg.


And finally…

• Ylvis is pronounced with the same vowel sound as in lys: Round your lips to blow a kiss, then say eee without changing your lips’ position.

A love letter to høyfjellet

Posted on 30. Jun, 2014 by in Nature

Høyfjellet at Hardangervidda (Photo courtesy of Christian Theede Christiansen on Flickr.)

Høyfjellet at Hardangervidda (Photo courtesy of Christian Theede Christiansen
on Flickr.)

According to the late Norwegian singer and humorous writer Odd Børretzen, the first Norwegians were nuts: With istida (the Ice Age) coming to an end in Europe, do you think these sturdy fellows stayed to enjoy the sunny lands in central Europe? Nope, instead they followed the retiring is (ice) on its path nordover (northwards) to de ugjestfrie fjella (the unwelcoming mountains) of Norway-to-be, where kulda (the cold) and the sparse soil made life an uphill struggle… (Of course, the stereotypical nordmann – Norwegian – loves climbing hills and mountains!)

You’ll see those Stone Age pioneers got it right when you visit det norske høyfjellet – the Norwegian “high plateau” (literally: high mountain). With tregrensa (the “tree limit”) well below you, there’s only your friends and you, and lier (highland pastures) and daler (valleys) and fjelltopper (peaks) så langt øyet rekker (as far as the eye can see, literally “reaches”). The air is clean as spring water, and the enormous stillhet (silence) around you makes every heartbeat resonate. You’re very tett på himmelen (close to the sky/heavens) now, so take care that you don’t become too religious! :-)

Om vinteren (in the winter) the høyfjell is like another planet where everything is white and alien. People go skiing on plains of snø (snow) so thick that you often glide past the uppermost twigs of trees, jutting out of the cape.

I påska (in Easter) høyfjellet gets a makeover as påskefjellet (the Easter mountains), and Norwegians are swarming on the high plains, as it’s often the only place where there is still snow. Sola (the sun) is really hot now and its stråler (rays) are reflected by the snow. Remember to dress lightly, even if there’s snow underneath you, and remember lots of solkrem (suntan lotion) and solbriller (sunglasses, shades). Otherwise, people will seriously think you’ve been vacationing in the Sahara! :-)

Om sommeren (in the summer), when there’s only snow on the highest peaks, høyfjellet is popular among trekkers who often go from hytte til hytte (cabin to cabin). There are many cabins that are free for tourists to use.

Naturally, there is nothing quite as vakker (beautiful) as høstfjellet – the mountains with autumn hues at their feet.

Mind your inversion

Posted on 29. Jun, 2014 by in Grammar

Master Yoda - origami

The sequence of words important is, yes!

Norwegian 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, Norwegians 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, Norwegian and English are like two peas in a pod.

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

Du sier 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.)

And the negative one:

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

Finally we see the difference between the two languages. In Norwegian, the word “ikke” does a backwards summersault and places itself in front of the verb in dependent clauses: Du er ikke > Du sier 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 ofte (often), alder (never), alltid (always), bare (just):

Han reiser ofte til Oslo. (He often goes to Oslo.) > Jeg har hørt at han ofte reiser til Oslo. (I’ve heard that he often goes to Oslo.)

Hun møtte plutselig ei gammel venninne. (She suddenly met an old friend.) > Det er hun som plutselig møtte ei gammel venninne. (That’s the one who suddenly met an old friend.)

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