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Is Norwegian a Happiness Drug? Posted by on Feb 27, 2021 in Language, Nature

(Free image from Pixabay; no copyright.)

Blir du glad av å snakke norsk? (Does speaking Norwegian make you happy?) Although linguists don’t seem to agree to which degree the language we speak might shape our perception of verden (the world)1This is also known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis., I’ve often heard comments like: ”Norwegians are always so friendly,” ”Norwegians just sound so happy when they talk,” and even: ”Is it even possible to be angry in Norwegian?” (of course it is, just go to the North and tell them they have no swear words!) Both Danes and Swedes2and Icelanders, it seems. seem to suffer from this stereotype of the super-optimistic Norwegian (who’s always skiing and smiling). So is there some truth to it?

A tonal language, Norwegian does sound very melodic to many people3Swedish has tones, too, but maybe Norwegian does sound more ”singsong” than Swedish, at least the Eastern Norwegian dialects near Oslo?. One could argue that the falling and rising tones nicely match the fjell og daler (mountains and valleys) of the country. (Some people from Eastern Europe, if I remember correctly, told me they felt Norwegian sounded like Elvish; a Ukrainian girl had been learning norsk just because of how she liked the sound of it.)

What do you think – er norsk et optimistisk språk? Er nordmenn optimister? (Is Norwegian an optimistic language? Are Norwegians optimists?)

Here are some ”happy bits” you can throw into your Norwegian conversations to let go of your national gloom:

Det høres veldig spennende ut! (That sounds super exciting!)

Så flott! (That’s so nice!)

Så gøy! (That’s so fun!)

Herregud, det er jo helt fantastisk! (Oh my God, that’s totally awesome!)

Jeg bare digger stilen din! (I really ”dig” your style!)

Helt konge! (Totally cool, literally ”totally king”!)

Gode greier! (Good stuff/That’s great!)

Dette var jo veldig trivelig. (This really was very cosy/pleasant.)

Kjempebra! (Very good, literally ”hugely good”!)

Ha’kke peiling… (I’ve no idea…)

Stilig! (Neat!)

Bare hyggelig! (My pleasure!)

Ha det bra! (Goodbye, literally ”have it good”!)

Tusen takk! (1000 thanks!)

A very Norwegian thing is to ”seal” your phrase with an echoing ”confirmation” word at the end – like the then in ”It’s a deal, then”. To my ears, at least, these small words create a very Norwegian, and perhaps also optimistic, vibe. 🙂

Det er ikke så verst, da. (It’s not so bad, then.)

Har ikke sett den tv-serien, nei. (Haven’t seen that TV series, ”no”.)

Nå skal vi være lykkelige, liksom. (Now we’re supposed to be happy, ”like”.)

Det er farlig, det! (That’s dangerous, that! – the timid hedgehog Ludvig’s famous oneliner in the film Flåklypa Grand Prix.)

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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.


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