Danish Language Blog

How to know when the baker’s born… Posted by on Nov 11, 2012 in Culture

A Swede enters a Danish taxa (cab) and asks the driver to take him to a rolig place. To the Swede’s bewilderment, the driver drops him off at a graveyard!

The fun part of this joke is that the word rolig means ”amusing” in Swedish, but ”relaxed” or ”quiet” in Danish…

A lot of Danish humor [HOO-more] is based on ordspil (puns, literally ”word plays”) like this. When the vittighed/er (joke/s) are translated, the puns and the fun usually disappear. It often takes a lot of insider’s knowledge to understand what the Danes are laughing at. I guess that’s another reason why many foreigners have a hard time breaking the ice and really becoming integrated in the warmth of the chitchat.

Making puns in Danish is extremely easy, as there are many different words that almost sound the same (homonyms). For example the word køer (cows, from ko, cow) sounds exactly the same as køer (queues, from , queue). I remember a poster with a cow saying Til dig, der er træt af køer… (For you who are tired of queues). Of course, it was an ad for some transportation company… 🙂

Recently, people have even started mixing Danish and English in their puns. This is often confusing to foreigners, who only catch the English part! The Danish juice company Naked Fruit print the text Bar’ æblemost on their cartons. It means either ’just apple juice’ or ’naked apple juice’. Thus the company name makes sense to a Dane in another way than it would to a foreigner, even if it’s in English!

Admitted, the puns that are everywhere in Danish jokes and brand names can be a little silly. A lot of Danes are fed up with them.

My favorite example is the name of the current date, 11-11. In Danish that is (den) ellevte i ellevte (”the 11th in the 11th”), which happens to sound just like ælte i ælte (”knead in knead”). For that reason, many people have started to call the day bagerens fødselsdag – the baker’s birthday. Last year, ”den ælte i ælte i ælte”, many bakeries celebrated the day with special offers, and a young couple of bakers got married. All because of a pun. I cannot imagine that happening in any other country than Denmark…

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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.


  1. Connie:

    The baker pun would be completely lost on a FYNBO – and possibly other Danes as well. I have never heard the word “ellevte” pronounced “ælte”; we always say ” ælfte”, so I’m guessing this blogger is from Jutland 😉

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Connie Yes, you’re absolutely right I’m from Jutland! Funnily, though, it was a FYNBO who introduced me to this pun! 😉 A friend of mine (from the Svendborg area) once invited me to a ”baker’s party” on November 11th. I didn’t get the point, so he had to explain. Maybe he’d been brainwashed by a Jute! 😉