The Scotlands of Norway

Posted on 27. Sep, 2014 by in History, Norway and the world, Politics

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The Saami flag. By anjči from London, UK (Saami flag, Tromsø / Norway) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Last week the people in Scotland voted no to becoming a country independent from the United Kingdom. For some people in faraway countries, it was maybe the first time they saw the Scottish flag or even heard about Scotland. I want to make sure that you, i det minste (at least), hear about the parts of Norway that aren’t typically Norwegian (even if they aren’t separate countries like Scotland):

Sápmi (Saami) or Sameland (Norwegian) is the ”Saami Country”. Samene (the Saami people) probably came to Norway long before the Vikings. I gamle dager (in days of old) there were Saami living as far south as Sørnorge (Southern Norway). The Norwegians, however, gradually pushed them north. Today they are living in parts of Nordnorge (Northern Norway, mainly the fylker Finnmark, Troms, Nordland and a bit into Trøndelag). Many Saami have kept their ancient clothing, singing and herding traditions (reinsdyr! reindeer!), and even the language samisk (Saami), which is related to Finnish. They used to be discriminated by Norwegian officials, such as lærere (school teachers) who would brutally punish Saami schoolchildren who were caught speaking their own language. Today they’re of course (!) fully integrated into the Norwegian society and even have the right to wave little Saami flags on 17. mai, den norske grunnlovsdagen (the day of the Norwegian constitution). The Saami have their own parliament – Sametinget – in the Saami-speaking town of Karasjok. For two reasons, though, it’s very unlikely that there’ll ever be a vote on Saami independence: 1. The Saami live in four different states – Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. 2. The Saami live side by side with ”ordinary” Norwegians, and there are very few places where they are in the majority.

Polar bears ahead! Photo by Kitty Terwolbeck. Licensed under Creative-Commons on Flickr.

Polar bears ahead! Photo by Kitty Terwolbeck. Licensed under Creative-Commons on Flickr.

– Have you ever looked at Norway on a map, and then moved your eyes a bit further north? If so, you’ve probably noticed the group of islands called Svalbard. They’re part of Norway, but in a special way. A century ago the world’s powerful countries all wanted to share those cold øyer (islands) with isbjørnene (the polar bears). The international community finally (by the means of Svalbardtraktaten, the Svalbard Treaty of 1925) gave Norway the ”suverenitet” (souvereignty), which basically meant: ”Okay, guys, you can call those islands Norwegian and raise your pretty flags, but don’t get in the way of our businessmen, and don’t send your soldiers up there.” For many years the Soviet Union was mining for coal in Svalbard, where there still is a community of russere og ukrainere (Russians and Ukrainians). Unlike the rest of Norway, Svalbard is not a member of NATO, and it is not allowed to be its own fylke (”region”). Russland (Russia) and Norge occasionally disagree about the islands, but, as far as I know, things have been quiet for a long time. The most powerful person on Svalbard is sysselmannen, who’s a kind of supervisor and police officer who checks that the 2000-something inhabitants behave nicely. I don’t know how to translate sysselmann, but it’s a nice word! :-)

5 most bizarre Norwegian dishes

Posted on 31. Aug, 2014 by in Food, Traditional

An exotic country, Norway has got its share of rare dishes. Native Norwegians may not agree with me, but I think the most bizarre Norwegian dishes are the following:

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Lefse. Thanks to kurisorokku on Flickr.

5. Lefser with brunost. A lefse is a Norwegian tortilla, only with hvetemel and potet (potato) instead of maize (corn). Wrap it around some brunost (Norwegian brown cheese), and you have a nice add-on to kaffien (the coffee). Why is this strange? Well, it depends on your smak (taste)! A few times, it tastes just too much of dusty flour and burnt caramel… Jamie Oliver thought brunost was noe søtt kliss (some sweet ”goo”). Many visitors absolutely adore it.

Komlemiddag

Komle (top right ”corner”). By Jarvin (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

4. Komler. I’ve seen the eyes of Norwegians twinkle as they told me they were about to eat komler or raspeballer, as they’re also known. The English name for such white, spongy, round thingies is ”potato dumplings”. I never understood the charm of chewing hot balls of flour. Somewhere there’s supposed to be a tinge of potatoes.

3. Dravle. As a kid on his first visit to Norway I had a hard time digesting some spoonfuls of this traditional dessert. The Big Norwegian Encyclopedia tells us that dravle is usually made from milk that is being heated till it almost starts boiling, ”under tilsetning av surmelk og evt. halvpisket egg, slik at ostestoffet faller ut i hvite klumper” (during the addition of soured milk and eventually half-whipped eggs, so that the casein/”cheese stuff” emerges as white lumps). – I wasn’t able to find a free photo of dravle, but take a look here.

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Lutefisk. By Jonathunder (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Lutefisk. You take a torsk (cod), dry it for some months until it becomes as stiff as parchment skin. Then you put your tørrfisk (dried fish) to soak for some days, steep it in lut (lye – a substance with a pH value similar to soap), before you let it soak in some more water. The result is a very watery delikatesse (delicacy), to say the least…

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By PerPlex (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

1. Smalahove. No doubt about this one. As if eating the hove (= hode, head) of a smale (= sau, sheep) wasn’t weird enough, smalahove afficionados in Western Norway even slurp the sheep’s little brain and big, empty eyes.

Norwegian Egozones

Posted on 30. Aug, 2014 by in Geography, Pronunciation

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”I hate Norway” written in nynorsk. Thanks to Aslak Raanes on Flickr. (”Must be irony,” as he writes.)

This is going to be the egoistical post. We all need to talk about ourselves now and then, so we need a word for ”I”. This is easy enough in written Norwegian – jeg (let’s stick to bokmål for the time being!) Jeg lærer norsk. (I’m learning Norwegian.)

If you’ve ever heard somebody saying jeg the way it’s written – ”yegh” – then you’ve probably met a Martian or something! The word for ”I” is pronounced in a dozen different ways, depending on the part of Norway you’re from. Even as a foreigner you have to ”choose your region”. Most people go for the Oslo variety, but I know people who’ve moved to other parts of Norway and tried to learn the local dialect instead.

Okay, this is a gross simplification, but if we leave out the niceties, one could say Norway has three major ”ego regions”: The places where people say jeg [yay], the places where they say eg [egh], and the places where you refer to yourself by letting out an æ [a]. Østlandet (Eastern Norway), in particular the Oslo area, are the strongholds of jeg, while Vestlandet (Western Norway) is the traditional eg sphere. Put crudely, the remaining parts of Norway – Sørlandet, Trøndelag and Nordnorge – go for æ.

(If you’ve been following this blog, you should know that there are two official ways to write Norwegian: bokmål – which is being taught here – and nynorsk. In nynorsk, ”I” is always eg. Most nynorsk users live in Western Norway. Hm… The poor æ-sayers, on the other hand, have no official support for their favourite pronoun!)

Alrighty then! You’ve picked your local identity. Now, how do you talk about ”me”? That’s easy – just add an m: jeg > meg [may], eg > meg [megh], æ > [ma]. Jeg har fått meg ny bil./Eg har fått meg ny bil./Æ har fått mæ ny bil. (I’ve gotten myself a new car.)

In real life things are a bit more complicated. For example, some østlendinger (Eastern Norwegians) say je [yeh]. Kjell Magne Bondevik, former Norwegian PM, called himself i [e!], as people in his hometown of Molde usually do.

So, if you’re tired of all the people around you that only say ”I – I – I…”, maybe you should go on an ego trip to Norway!

 

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A nice children’s song demonstrating æ:

M – Æ så en liten grønn frosk en gang… (M – I saw a small green frog once…)

Try this at home!