Norwegian is a specific language that enjoys stumbles. And although at first glance it seems to us that twisting one letter is nothing terrible, in reality such a mistake may cause a lot of confusion in a conversation with a Norwegian – in some situations even unknowingly offend our interlocutor.
However, in most cases he will probably burst into a laugh, because who wouldn’t, when asked where he parked his beetle?
Hvor er bilen din? – we will ask when we want to find out where our conversation partner’s car is. But if we carelessly add the second letter ‘l’ to the word ‘car’ and instead ask Hvor er billen din? – The Norwegian may be bewildered, because he probably won’t be able to find it in his memory when he mentioned to you that he founded a beetle farm. It would seem that the problem concerns only the written form, but nothing more misleading. The secret lies in the accent – if we want to ask about the car, we will pronounce the syllable bi for a long time. But if our friend really likes insects – then the syllables must be short.
With a visit to the customs officer
We should be especially careful in the Customs Office, because probably no official will be particularly happy to know that his work is nothing more than nonsense. Toll is a Norwegian customs duty, but it is also the name of the Norwegian Customs Office. One of the most common language mistakes made by people who start their adventure with Norwegian is the exchange of ‘o’ for ‘u’ and vice versa – no wonder that it is easy to change toll carelessly for tull, that is simply ‘nonsense’. However, it is better to beware of it, because such a linguistic prank may prolong our visit to the customs office!
A troublesome ‘o’ and ‘u’ could put us in an even more embarrassing situation, because it will be difficult to explain to the interlocutor what we meant by calling him a toilet seat. The word du is Norwegian for ‘you’ and ‘do’ for ‘toilet’. The situation is aggravated by the fact that in this case both these words are pronounced almost identically and a higher level of linguistic initiation will be needed in order to be able to make the difference perfectly. As if that were not enough, Norwegian dø will also be pronounced in a similar way. And what does the verb dø mean? To die. If we inform the interlocutor that we have to go to the toilet, and he starts to convince us with horror in his eyes that it is not worth it – then we can be sure that something went wrong.
Faux pas on the visit.
For et flott lys dere har! – We will say with appreciation if we like the lighting in the house of the hosts. Unfortunately, a honest compliment can be misunderstood if we try to replace ‘y’ with ‘u’. Because then we’ll turn the lys into the lus. And lus is not something welcome under its own roof, because it simply means louse. So instead of praising the house conditions of the hosts, we will admire the vermin… and probably not get a second invitation anymore.
Watch out also for the word ‘full’! Depending on the context, it can be understood differently. But let’s not use it to thank you for a delicious meal, because by saying Jeg er full, we will admit that we came to the hospitality not quite sober. It will be much safer to change a ‘full’ into a ‘mett’.
Watch out for English
The traps are also waiting for people who speak English well. It is worth avoiding abusing it in the workplace and finding Norwegian equivalents for the words you want to use. Otherwise, it may happen that we call the boss ‘trash’ completely unconsciously. Because the ‘boss’ will not mean our supervisor at all, but garbage, waste. A much safer option is simply a ‘sjef’.
Another warning for people who mix Norwegian with English is the word gift – in Norwegian… poison. It is better to give up such a gift! However, the word gift used without the article en means marital status – married. And supposedly Norwegians lack a sense of humor…