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Fun and special words in Danish Posted by on Aug 27, 2016 in Literature, Slang, Vocabulary

Sometimes learning Danish vocabulary can be really fun – you discover items that make you giggle or shake your head in disbelief: How could anyone even think of an expression like that? A Romanian Danish-learner I knew, was absolutely thrilled by the word agurk [uh-GOOAK] (cucumber). ”It sounds like something an alien would say!” he enthused, before repeating the word several times: agurk, agurk. Below are some words that I myself find really great. What are your favourites? Please drop a line in the comments section. 🙂

(Photo courtesy of Cyclonebill at Flickr, CC License.)

(Photo courtesy of Cyclonebill at Flickr, CC License.)

A snabel-a is the @ sign. It literally means ”elephant’s trunk a”! There really is something about Danes and elephants… A special kind of strong beer is called elefantøl, while elefantsnot (elephant’s snot) is the kind of clay you use to attach posters to a hard wall…

When you give someone elevatorblikket (the elevator stare), it means you’re scanning their entire body with your eyes.

Some Danes joke about having a rugbrødsmotor (rye bread motor). You know, they need their daily fix of Danish rye bread in order to function properly… And, speaking of Danish cravings – there’s a reason a (beer) bottle opener is sometimes called a samfundshjælper (society helper).

Have you been too long on a Danish island and got økuller (island dizzyness)? Maybe you just need to lægge hovedet i blød (”soak your head” = rack your brain) or slappe af (”slacken off” = relax) below a pensionistgrill (”pensioner grill” = slang for a heat lamp!)

Some Danish words can be really poetic, too:

kuldskær means ”sensitive to cold”

vakkelvorn means ”which is unstable and could easily collapse”

hjemve literally translates as ”home-ouch!” and – of course – refers to homesickness. The opposite is udve – the urge to travel out and see the world

døgn means ”day and night” – so a døgnkiosk is a kiosk which is open 24/7

And the Danish word for a ”blackbird” is just so beautiful – but of course I’m biased. 😉 It’s … solsort (sun black).

 

 

Update: The reader Jørgen mentions another meaning of rugbrødsmotor: In his experience, Min plæneklipper har rugbrødsmotor would mean that ”My lawn mower has no motor, so I have to push it myself”.

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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.


Comments:

  1. Liam Jon Pilmore:

    These are great! I also like (correct me if I am wrong anywhere):

    Mundmand = (mouth man) Goalkeeper

    (Det er) hund koldt = (dog cold) when it is crazy cold outside

    Dollargrin = (dollar smile) an old way of saying ‘petrol Guzzler,’ when talking about big or old cars. Another way is to say ‘bensinluger.’

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Liam Jon Pilmore @Hello Liam
      I really like mundmand. 🙂 Unfortunately, the correct word is målmand (goal man).
      The others are fine – but notice the spelling: Det er hundekoldt.

      Thanks for the input!

  2. Jørgen Christensen:

    Jeg skal ikke påstå at din udlægning af ordet rugbrødsmotor er forkert, men jeg har aldrig hørt den før.
    Jeg har kun kendskab til følgende betydning: Man kan feks. sige „ min plæneklipper har rugbrødsmotor “, det vil sige den har ingen motor så jeg må selv skubbe den.
    Mvh Jørgen Christensen

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Jørgen Christensen Hej Jørgen! Mange tak for feedback. Jeg er glad for at høre ”rugbrødsmotor” i en ny sammenhæng. Tak! Mvh Bjørn

  3. Mette:

    Udve …. Det har jeg godt nok aldrig hørt. Jeg ville sige udlængsel…..
    Mette

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Mette Hej Mette! Tjek Retskrivningsordbogen: http://sproget.dk/lookup?SearchableText=udve. 🙂
      Jeg er enig med dig i at ”udve” ikke er et dagligdags ord. Jeg synes bare det er fedt! 🙂
      (Men så må mine læsere også lide under at jeg er en kæmpe fan af skæve, poetiske og også lidt gammeldags ord.)

  4. AnneMarie Walsted:

    This was a great post. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Helene:

    Hej Blørn
    Herlig blog. Økuller er et skønt ord. Den engelske oversættelse er cabinfever. Hvis du oversætte ordret så rammer dizziness ikke helt betydningen af kuller. Skriv gerne til mig hvis du har spørgsmål im oversættelse af danske ord.
    Helene.

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Helene Hej Helene
      Mange tak for feedback. Bloggen er en bibeskæftigelse, så når jeg skal oversætte, går det som regel hurtigst at benytte en god ordbog. Men tak for tilbuddet, det kan jo være jeg benytter mig af det! 😉
      Jeg synes i øvrigt ikke ”cabinfever” er en 1:1-oversættelse af ”økuller”. Det er noget andet at være isoleret på en ø end at være spærret inde i en hytte eller kabine. Er det ikke fedt at man ikke helt kan udtrykke det samme på forskellige sprog? Det er netop det umulige ved en ”perfekt” oversættelse der for mig gør det spændende at dykke ned i et nyt sprog, en ny begrebsverden.
      Mvh Bjørn