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.
Translation: To have bones in your nose
Meaning: To be determined and capable.
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.
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).
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).
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.
Translation: To step in the salad
Meaning: To make a faux pas.
Translation: To bury the battle axe
Meaning: To bury the hatchet. And similarly…
Translation: To smoke a peace pipe
Meaning: To make up with someone following a disagreement.
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).
Translation: To get blood on your tooth
Meaning: To become inspired/driven to do something.
Translation: To stand with your beard in the post box
Meaning: To have ended up in a stupid situation, possibly cheated into it.
Translation: To be completely Nils
Meaning: To be silly/stupid (Nils is a male name. No idea what poor Nils has ever done).
Translation: You shouldn’t judge the dog on its hairs
Meaning: You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
Translation: To write something behind the ear
Meaning: To make a mental note of something; to make sure to remember something.
Translation: To speak directly from the liver
Meaning: To speak plainly/truthfully without sugar-coating.
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).
Translation: To put the longest leg in front
Meaning: To hurry/run.
Translation: To put your legs on your neck
Meaning: To run away from something.
Translation: To have a finger included in the game
Meaning: To play a part in something (often something sneaky).
Translation: That’s completely Texas!
Meaning: That’s crazy! (From associations with the Wild West from old Western movies.)
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.