Thursday, April 1, 2010

On Foolish Norwegian (lesson # 4, I think)

WARNING! Below is an April Fools' Day post constructed entirely to check just how gullible my readers are (or how silly they think the Norwegian language is). For details on the actual meaning of the words presented here, check out my explanatory April 2nd post.



Norwegians might be silly, but considering our silly language, it would be sillier if we weren’t silly. (I just spent my entire daily quota of the word silly in one sentence!)


One of the things that make the Norwegian language so silly (this is going out of tomorrow’s allocation!) is our sometimes ridiculous translations of perfectly normal English words. (Well, they aren’t always translations. Some of them were words in Norwegian before we were sophisticated enough to know there was such a thing as an English language. But you know what I mean.) Like the Norwegian word for banana. When the fruit was imported to Norway for the first time in the late 19th century, winds of nationalism were blowing over the soon-to-be independent Norway. Thus, the fruit internationally recognized as “banana” was dubbed with a Norwegian name. Today the banana is still known in Norway as gulbøy [yellow bend].

Similarly, popcorn was first introduced to Norwegian customers in the early 1950s. Embracing the American popular culture, Norwegians were eager to try anything from "the States". Popcorn immediately became popular [pun intended], but it was under a Norwegian name it was to gain most of its followers. Sprettmais [bounce corn] originally was just a brand name, but eventually this became the common word to describe any kind of popcorn in Norway. A 2002 court order prevents any other brands to use the registered name Sprettmais, but it doesn’t prevent ordinary people from calling any kind of popcorn by this name.

You may have met the often unappreciated creature Rattus Norvegicus – the common brown rat. While its Latin name clearly is linked to Norway (Google failed to enlighten me how exactly, though), its Norwegian name does not appreciate this at all. The Norwegian name for rat is luremus, which directly translates to “trick mouse” or perhaps more accurately “fake mouse”. A rat is thus a mouse that is not a mouse.

The weirdest of all the Norwegian sillinesses, however, is to be found under water. In English there are (at least) two words for what we in Norwegian somewhat inaccurately call by only one: The English words “squid” and “octopus” both translates to the Norwegian blekksprut. Inaccurate as this might be, what is truly noticeable about the word blekksprut is its meaning. Directly translated, it means “ink squirt”. Tell me that isn’t funny!

4 comments:

TreeX said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rattus_norvegicus#Naming_and_etymology

Watery Tart said...

I think a trick mouse is a BRILLIANT thing to call a rat! *giggles* (this is the thoughtful variety that responds so much to everything that they are easy to manipulate for experimentation... I'm familiar--there is a guy who has spoken here about his many generation breeding experiment to discover why some people get fat and others don't (dispositionally and metabolically)--those are Norwegian Brown trick mice, I'm sure of it...

And Bounce Corn? I love these! Though I think I'm with you on it being silly to have changed the name of banana...

M.J. Nicholls said...

Blekksprut is my new favourite word.

Cruella Collett said...

*snort* I couldn't resist...

Joris - thank you for that piece of information! Good to know that the "trick mouses" weren't actually Norwegian in origina...

Tami - either you're playing along very devotedly, or I got you it seems ;)

Mark - it is a good word (and the only one from the above list that actually is what I claimed it was. Check out my April 2nd for for clarification)

Related Posts with Thumbnails