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Mandag (pronounced ’manda’). This is the first day of the week in Denmark – and most of Europe, for that matter. The American habit of putting Sundays first in calendars looks weird to Danes. You can’t start the week relaxing, you know, it takes some toil before you merit that weekend! Mandag looks like ”man day” in modern Danish, but in Old Germanic it used to mean ”moon day”.
Tirsdag (pronounced ’teearsda’). Having survived that dreadful Monday, you’re now getting back on track in your everyday arbejdsrytme (”work rhythm”). With the weekend’s amusement still fresh in mind, and the major part of the arbejdsuge (”work week”) ahead, tirsdag has something vigorous about it. (Do notice that day names are written in lower-case in Danish.) The original meaning of tirsdag is ”Tyr’s day”, Tyr being a god of war and justice in Norse mythology.
Onsdag (pronounced ’onsda’) is the middle day. Bringing your children to børnehave (kindergarten) or taking seat in your university’s læsesal (reading room) now works like a charm. Onsdag must have been an important day, because its name means ”the day of Odin” – the Vikings’ one-eyed grand old daddy god.
Torsdag (pronounced ’toarsda’). This is the day to give yourself the thumbs up: Only one more day to go! Every påske (Easter) there is a special skærtorsdag (Maundy Thursday, literally ”Purification Thursday”). That name is something of an oxymoron, as torsdag – and only torsdag – has a heathen ethymology which is still discernible in modern Danish: Tors dag or Thors dag, the day of the thunder god Thor.
Fredag (pronounced ’frehda’ – but make sure to ”throat” the r as in French or standard German!). You’ve made it! The last weekday, fredag is a breeze. Some people have fewer arbejdstimer (working hours – you guess the singular!) this day. Many universities and even adolescents’ schools organize fredagsbar or fredagscafé – an informal setting to get a beer or three with your co-students and exchange chit-chat about the past week. It is commonly believed that fredag means ”Freja’s day”, Freja being the Norse love godess. However, language specialists seem to agree that this day has actually got its name from Odin’s wife, Frigg.
Lørdag (pronounced ’lirda’, with ’ir’ as in ’girl’). Hooray, finally it’s weekend (yes, this word we’ve stolen from English – however, most people danify the pronunciation as ’veekend’). That is, unless you’re an emergency doctor or work in a shop – most shops keep open on lørdage. Lørdag is the only day name which has an ethymology different from the corresponding English ones: Whereas Saturday means ’Saturn’s day’, lør- comes from an Old Norse word meaning ’washing’. After five days’ work, now it’s the time to cleanse your dirty rags! 🙂
Søndag (pronounced ’sernda’). It looks like søn (son), but this day used to be ’the day of the Sun’. (Sun is sol in modern Danish, though.) Christian people go to kirke (church), but the majority of the rather secular Danes use this day to cure the Saturday tømmermænd (hangover), enjoy the Sun (!) if it’s there, and recharge the batteries, as we like to say, for the week ahead.