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False Friends in Danish Posted by on Oct 31, 2016 in Denmark and the World, Fun

I always tell English-speakers that Danish is easy – except the pronunciation. Both English and Danish are Germanic languages, and with Nordsøen as the only natural barrier between England and Denmark, the two languages are much closer to each other than you’d think. Recently, Danish has also ”swallowed” a lot of English words, making the linguistic similarity even greater. This situation creates a lot of falske venner (false friends). Here are some words and expressions to keep in mind when speaking Danish…

There’s nothing wrong with this sign… (Photo courtesy of Banalities at Flickr, CC License.)

There’s nothing wrong with this sign… (Photo courtesy of Banalities at Flickr, CC License.)

  1. Gift means ”poison” in Danish. It can also mean ”married”, as in Er du gift? (Are you married?)
  2. Bad is ”bath” or ”shower”, as in Jeg tager lige et bad. (I’ll just take a shower).
  3. Mad means ”food”. 🙂
  4. Fire means ”four”.
  5. There’s nothing wrong with signs showing the word fart = ”speed”.
  6. There’s also nothing wrong with signage containing the word slut (finish), as in slutspurt (”final run” sales).
  7. The word pige (girl) has nothing to do with swine…
  8. A time is an hour.
  9. Sky means ”cloud”. It can also mean ”timid”, as in Hun er meget sky (She’s very timid).
  10. You are probably already aware that there is no religious content in the saying God weekend! (Wishing you a good/happy weekend!)
  11. If you happen to find a huge red book with the promising title Danmarks love, I’m afraid you won’t find much romance in there… It means ”Laws of Denmark”.
  12. If a fierce Viking gives you a hug, you’ll probably die. Because he’ll probably be using an axe or a sword to give you said stroke/blow.

Do you know any false friends I haven’t listed here? Have you got any fun stories about misunderstanding things in Denmark? Please share with the other readers in the comments section. 🙂

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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. Mianna:

    I remember having newly met my husband’s cousin and congratulating them on their new baby. I told him, “Jeg er så glad for dig!” I thought I was saying “I’m so happy for you!” It was a little embarrassing when he told me that the phrase meant I had romantic interest in him. 😉 I should have said “Jeg er så glad på dine vegne.”

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Mianna @Mianna Haha, that’s a great example. 😀