Saturday, March 6, 2010

Danish Idioms

Perhaps the best thing about living here is watching the Girl and Natali learn to speak Danish. I especially love the way they use swear words and idioms.

Natali has always been fast to pick up new expressions, sometimes using them incorrectly. We have several family inside-jokes, which all stem back to her, very cute, misunderstandings. This is all in English, of course. Some classics:

"I like him, but he is not the sharpest bulb in the shed."

"Come on Dad, it's not rocket surgery!"

One morning, while biking to school, she proclaimed that the weather made her feel "undisaffected".

Quoting Zoolander: "Hansel, you think you are too cool for school. But I got a news flash for you, water croc boy. You aren't."


Here are some Danish idioms that are slowly being picked up by Natali and the Girl:

When something is simple: Der er ingen ko på isen, there is no cow on the ice.


Det er der ingen ben i, there are no bones in that.

To be tough: Have ben i næsen, to have bones in your nose.

And, in case you are wondering, everyone does. Cartilage, but bone too.

To fall for something: Hoppe på limpinden, jump on the glue stick.

I love that one, by the way.

When something is worrisome: Der er ugler i mosen, there are owls in the marsh.

It's also fun to listen to the Girl's use of different Danish dialects. Why would the Girl use different Danish dialects, you ask? I can only answer that by say that I have often caught myself doing that in English. There is something enticing about adopting a new accent. I remember talking a lot like a gay friend for a while; for a few months after working with a cardiologist from Boston, I didn't pronounce r's at the end of words. Similarly, I was influenced by Indian colleagues and found myself picking up some of their expressions.

It's fun, is all I can say.

The Girl does it, when she is nervous, like when talking on the phone to someone important. Suddenly, she has a sing-song Jutland accent. Sometimes, she swears like a longshoreman, not knowing how cute it sounds.

As a family, we speak English and Danish at home and it often comes out as the ugly daughter of the two, Danglish. People look at us with curiosity, when we speak this mixed language in public. I, personally, find Danglish to be the easiest way to communicate, followed by English and Danish. A full year after moving here, I still can't talk to patients like I did in English. On a daily basis, I stumble over words and expressions, almost always related to medicine. I will work a few shifts in the ER when we come to Wisconsin in March, and it will be interesting how my English will fare then.

It's odd how situation-specific my preference for a language is:

Baby talk to the Lorax: Danish

Bedtime stories to Natali: Danish

Hematology: English

Running, training, racing: English

Emotional, romantic: English (ineptly so, probably)

Daily life: Danglish


sea legs girl said...

I would appreciate knowing next time when I unwittingly swear like a longshoreman. By the way, you are 35 now.

SteveQ said...

There are owls in the marsh...

Wow. Spooky. I may have to use that!

BTW, there literally ARE owls in the marsh here today.

日日夜夜 said...


Paul Beckett said...

Dear Fast Bastard,
Happy to have run across your blog. My American son lives near Roskilde in a family speaking Danglish (actually they, including 2 small children, are amazingly adept at keeping them separate). We live in Madison WI. Coming here? --Paul Beckett,