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King Carrot and other Danish Weirdos Posted by on Jul 31, 2020 in Culture, Fun

Danish has two aspects that makes it particularly hard for learners: 1. The sounds, which Danish (!) poet Benny Andersen compared to havregrød i kog (boiling oatmeal porridge). 2. The Danish humour and culture, which is embedded in the language. Where else in the world can you say that something costs ”a dog” (en hund) when you actually mean it costs 100 (hundrede) Kroner?

Ingen ko på isen. No cow on the ice. (Free image from Pixabay; no copyright.)

Det blæser en halv pelikan.

”It blows half a pelicane.” = It is really windy!

Han tager lige en morfar.

”He’s just grabbing a granddad.” = He’s taking a nap.

Der er ingen ko på isen.

”There’s no cow on the ice.” = Everything is okay./There are no problems at the moment.

Stik lige en finger i jorden.

”Just put a finger into the earth.” = Calm down./Get back to earth. (Said to someone who is seen as too ”airy” or pretentious.)

Klap (lige) hesten.

”(Just) pat the horse.” = Calm down.

Han skal ikke komme her og spille kong Gulerod.

”He shouldn’t come here and play King Carrot.” = He shouldn’t come here and act like he’s better than us/other people.

På Lars Tyndskids mark.

”In the field of Lars Diarrhea.” = In the middle of nowhere.

Hun var ude og svinge træbenet.

”She was out swinging the wooden leg.” = She went dancing./She was (out) dancing.

Det var dødens pølse.

”It was the sausage of death.” = It was the most boring thing ever.

Jeg har en høne at plukke med dig.

”I have a hen to pluck with you.” = I’m angry with you.

Så er den ged barberet.

”Then that goat is shaved.” = Done! (Said after completing a task.)

Det er bare et slag på tasken.

”It’s only a slap on the bag.” = It’s only an estimate.

Jeg stod med håret i postkassen.

”I was standing with the hair in the letter box.” (I felt powerless in a tough situation.)

Der skal nye boller på suppen.

”There must new balls on the soup.” = Things need to change.

 

Are there some weird Danish expressions I’ve forgotten? Please add them in the comments section! 🙂

Thanks to my sister Sigrid for the inspiration.

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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. Dustin:

    Hej Bjørn,
    I have been studying Danish for less than one year (self-study using Babbel), so I won’t try to write in Danish as I’m sure I would make many errors and embarrass myself! I very much enjoy the sayings “There’s no cow on the ice” and “It was the sausage of death.” Do you know how these sayings originated in Denmark? Also, best wishes to the royal family and everyone in Denmark for Prince Joachim’s speedy recovery.

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Dustin Hej Dustin,
      on behalf of us in Denmark – thanks for the good wishes regarding Prince Joachim! 🙂

      Unfortunately, I don’t know the origins of the expressions you mention. I can only guess…
      ”cow on the ice” – in the old days most people in Denmark were farmers (and the winters were colder than now). So, if one of your cows went out on a frozen lake, it could cause you big problems… (Noone could afford losing a cow that went through the ice and drowned…)
      ”sausage of death” – it might be related to another ”sausage” expression. We sometimes say that something is ”rosinen i pølseenden” (the raisin in the end of the sausage). It may be translated as ”good things come last”. So, there is a ”positive sausage” in the language, and the death sausage may be inspired by that other expression. But I don’t really know… DO any of the readers? 🙂

      • Dustin:

        @Bjørn A. Bojesen Hej Bjørn,
        Thank you for the explanations – very interesting to read. Most importantly, I forgot to tell you in my first post how much I enjoy your blog. Det spændende at se bloggen i min email hver måned! (Er min dansk forfærdelig?)

        • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

          @Dustin Hej Dustin, mange tak for din feedback. Det glæder mig. Dit dansk er rigtigt godt! 🙂

  2. Karen Miller:

    My Husband’s Oma was Dutch and she used to called him ;
    pik, pieck, pigk, or a name similar as a term of endearment when he was young.
    We would like to know what it meant and how to spell it.
    She was from Rotterdam and Amsterdam
    Thank you

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Karen Miller Hi Karen! Interesting story! 🙂 Please note, though, that this is the Danish blog. Your question would belong to the Dutch blog… Kind regards

  3. Leonidas:

    A fun one: ass and keys, “røv og nøgler”, used for example here: https://www.dr.dk/nyheder/kultur/film/5-stjerner-kendt-komikers-nye-film-faar-dig-til-ligge-flad-af-grin

  4. Nirmala Vasudevan:

    Hello Bjørn,
    In an old post of yours, titled “Written Danish: a couple of quirks”, you had written that consonant doubling is used to indicate whether the preceding vowel is long or short.
    But what if you want to indicate a long consonant? Like the n in unnatural. Do you use double letters here also? Or are there other tricks?
    I know no Scandinavian, but I would like to hear as much as you can tell me
    Nirmala

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Nirmala Vasudevan Hello Nirmala,
      the short answer would be that that there are not really long consonants in Danish (only short or long vowels, and the consonants surrounding them).
      For example, Italians say mamma /mam:a/ with a long m. But a Dane saying ”mamma mia” with a Danish accent, would naturally rather say /mama mia/ with a short m. Of course, you have combined words like unnatural. An example is vildledende (misleading) [vil.letheneh]. When pronounced clearly, you first say the l of the first word (vild-), then the l of the second element (-ledende). It creates an effect similar to the combined Ns of ”un-natural”. But I’d say it’s a double consonsant, not a long consonant. 🙂 Well, that’s maybe a topic for a post; thank you for the idea. Hope my answer was of some help for you!
      Bjørn

  5. Nirmala Vasudevan:

    Hello Bjørn,

    Thanks a lot for your reply.

    From wikipedia:
    Danish has a three-way consonant length distinction. For instance:
    bunde [b̥ɔnə] “bottoms”
    bundne [b̥ɔnnə] “bound” (pl.)
    bundene [b̥ɔnn̩nə] “the bottoms”
    The word bundene can phonemically be analyzed as /bɔnənə/, with the middle schwa being assimilated to [n].

    Are they talking about double/triple consonant length?

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Nirmala Vasudevan Hi Nirmala,
      that’s interesting. 🙂 I guess I see languages more at a phonemic (meaningful differences of sound) than phonetic (the sounds as they ”actually” are) level. So, I would look at bundene as consisting of three syllables, ”bund-e-ne”, even if the vowels tend to disappear entirely (get ”mumbled”) in actual speech. I don’t think Wikipedia is talking about double/triple length here – rather just a ”doubling/tripling up” (n+n, n+n+n). But of course, those double/triple pronunciations may sometimes merge (do you say un-natural or un:atural?), so this is a shady area, which I fear I am not qualified to answer! (I’m not a phonetician.) All the best, Bjørn


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