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Norwegian brown cheese (don't be born behind it) © Arnstein Bjone / Wiki Commons
Norwegian brown cheese (don't be born behind it) © Arnstein Bjone / Wiki Commons
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20 Norwegian Sayings That Make No Sense In English

Picture of Louise Older Steffensen
Updated: 11 May 2017
Sayings and idioms are part of what make languages fun, surprising and unique, and they often say a lot about the culture that they come from. Below are some of the best and strangest Norwegian sayings – sit down comfortably in the middle of the butter eye, bury your battle axes and write one or two of these behind your ear.

Å ha bein i nesa

Translation: To have bones in your nose

Meaning: To be determined and capable.

Jeg har en høne å plukke med deg

Translation: I have a hen to pluck with you

Meaning: To have an issue with someone that you want to discuss with them; to have a bone to pick with someone.

This guy looks like he has a hen to pluck with you
This guy looks like he has a hen to pluck with you | © mail111 / Pixabay

Å være født bak en brunost

Translation: To be born behind a brown cheese

Meaning: To be stupid (brown cheese or “mysost” is a Norwegian national treasure, a type of almost caramel-like goat’s cheese).

Å være midt i smørøyet

Translation: To be in the middle of the butter eye

Meaning: To be in a great place (the smørøye is the lovely buttery hollow left by the melting scoop of butter atop a warm bowl of porridge such as risgrøt).

Risgrøt, hot rice porridge, with a delicious smørøye forming
Risgrøt, hot rice porridge, with a delicious smørøye forming | © KEN / Wikipedia

Å koka bort i kålen

Translation: To boil away/into nothing in the cabbage

Meaning: When an idea or plan comes to nothing through waffling. It is thought to come from meat being reduced to nothing when cooked in cabbage stew for a long time.

Å tråkke i salaten

Translation: To step in the salad

Meaning: To make a faux pas.

Å grave ned stridsøksen

Translation: To bury the battle axe

Meaning: To bury the hatchet. And similarly…

A Viking burying his battle axe
A Viking burying his battle axe | © bluepolarn / Pixabay

Å røyke fredspipe

Translation: To smoke a peace pipe

Meaning: To make up with someone following a disagreement.

Å være pling i bollen

Translation: To be a ping in the bowl

Meaning: To be empty-headed/stupid (from the “ping”-like noise an empty bowl makes when you tap it).

Å få blod på tannen

Translation: To get blood on your tooth

Meaning: To become inspired/driven to do something.

This man is very inspired indeed
This man is very inspired indeed | © LunarSeaArt / Pixabay

Å stå med skjegget i postkassa

Translation: To stand with your beard in the post box

Meaning: To have ended up in a stupid situation, possibly cheated into it.

Å være helt Nils

Translation: To be completely Nils

Meaning: To be silly/stupid (Nils is a male name. No idea what poor Nils has ever done).

Man skal ikke skue hunden på hårene

Translation: You shouldn’t judge the dog on its hairs

Meaning: You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

This dog has so much hair to judge
This dog has so much hair to judge | © Josch13 / Pixabay

Å skrive noe bak øret

Translation: To write something behind the ear

Meaning: To make a mental note of something; to make sure to remember something.

Å snake rett fra leveren

Translation: To speak directly from the liver

Meaning: To speak plainly/truthfully without sugar-coating.

Der er ugler i mosen

Translation: There are owls in the bog

Meaning: There is something secretive/sinister about a situation. Originally “Der er ulver i mosen” (there are wolves in the bog).

There are definitely owls in the bog here
There are definitely owls in the bog here | © LubosHouska / Pixabay

Å sette det lengste beinet foran

Translation: To put the longest leg in front

Meaning: To hurry/run.

Å ta beina på nakken

Translation: To put your legs on your neck

Meaning: To run away from something.

Å ha en finger med i spillet

Translation: To have a finger included in the game

Meaning: To play a part in something (often something sneaky).

Det er helt Texas!

Translation: That’s completely Texas!

Meaning: That’s crazy! (From associations with the Wild West from old Western movies.)

Completely Texas
Completely Texas | © kasabubu / Pixabay

Many Norwegian sayings are the same or similar to ones in Danish or Swedish. To stay within Norwegian borders and get to know this ski-loving, Viking-like, polar bear-infested nation, take a peek at stereotypes that Norwegians hate.

Featured image by Arnstein Bjone.