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Funny Expressions and Idioms in Norwegian

Norwegian idioms

Once you've learned the basics of any language, its the expressions and idioms that add colour.

This is part of a series on how to learn Norwegian.

When I started learning Norwegian I tried to translate every world in order to get the meaning of a sentence. Most of the cases it did work, but others, it does not. Here is my list of some expressions that you will hear while in Norway and which directly translate in a funny way.

Takk for sist – “Thank you for the last time”

The first time I heard this expression I thought my memory was failing and that I just had forgotten that I had recently seen this person.

What it really means: “Nice to see you again”

It is used when you meet someone that you see again but it does not matter how long ago you did.

Inside a Norwegian language novel

Håper at det smaker – “I hope that it tastes”

This is an expression used when you are served or serving some food. My immediate reaction was to hope the same. After all it is food and it should have a taste, right?

What it really means: “I hope that you enjoy it”

This is a polite, nice way to serve food to guests.

Du har fått en telefon – “You've got a telephone”

I thought someone had bought a new phone the first time I heard about it.

What it really means: “You have a phone call”

You just have to stop thinking in how it translates to English and you will get used to this one.

Hva er i veien? – “What's in the way?”

This is something you neither hear while driving nor walking, though you could easily think that is what it means.

What it really means: “What's wrong?”

This is their way of asking you if there is some problem or something bothering you. Another expression worth remembering!

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Å være midt i smørøyet – “To be in the middle of the butter's eye”

At first I just didn't know what to think or how to translate this expression. Some expressions make no sense at all, unless you really know the meaning.

What it really means: “To be right in the best possible spot”

So actually, if you hear this expression it is something very positive and not related to food!

To sum it up, any time you hear an expression and find it utterly funny or just plain weird, the odds are that it has a very different meaning than you first think.

When in doubt, simply ask for an explanation. Most of the time, the best thing to do is memorise these expressions as you will hear them often in Norwegian conversations.

Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360

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About the Author: Carmen Cristina Pettersen Carpio

Originally from Ecuador, Carmen Cristina is now settled in Norway and works for the tourist organisation Region Stavanger. She writes for Life in Norway about adjusting to the Norwegian lifestyle, and runs her own blog all about Ecuador.

14 Comments

  1. “Å være midt i smørøyet”
    Actually, it _is_ Food related. For this experiment, you will need a Skillet, some Butter, and an Egg.
    Heat the Skillet up, and put a pat of Butter in the center. As the Butter melts, it spreads out. At some point, the moisture has been driven from the center, and the Butter there is clear, but the outer edges are still popping and yellowish. A Butter Eye with a yellow Iris.
    Crack an Egg into the center of the Eye. The Butter there being mostly hotter oil at this point, the center of the Egg heats up quickly. The Egg Whites at the watery fringes cook slower, and take up the remaining moisture in the form of enclosed bubbles.
    As the fringes brown, flip once for a few seconds to set the Whites just over the Yolk, and serve, with Salt and Pepper, and a side of Rashers. And Toast with Butter. And Marmalade. And Tea. And Kippers, if you like Kippers.
    (Note that the Skillet used for frying Eggs shouldn’t be used for any other purposes, especially anything having to do with Kippers.)

    “To be in the middle of the butter’s eye” here is in reference as to how you properly lay your Egg.

    (I do hope that you will be nice, and not Spam my email address.)

    1. Actually, a “butter eye” in Norwegian refers to the butter in the middle of your porridge. And everyone knows that the bit of the porridge with the butter is the best bit.

  2. My uncle used to say something that sounded like “snakker bout a tulebooken” that I wish I could know exactly what it meant. Something about you’re talking nonsense.

    1. Snakker om en tullebukk!
      perhaps?
      its fairly hard to translate yes.
      Literally directly translated it says : talk about a rapscallion!

      Tullebukk is both a positive and a negative word, depending on how it is said.

      It means prankster, but can also mean something close to jerk.
      I think rapscallion might be the word that comes closest – but not ? sure 😉

      Examples:
      ((Din tullebukk))
      ((You tullebukk))
      Parents often fondly call their children this when they are playing tricks on their family or just being children in general I suppose –
      Sometimes when it’s not warranted to use strong language to correct behaviour tullebukk can be used as replacement.

      However the same words can also be used a pretty negative way.
      I once held up a subway train for someone running to reach it.
      Then the conductor shouted out harshly : Dont block the doors you tullebukk !

    1. If you mean “uff da” it’s an extremely old fashioned exclamation, not really a word, that you use when you’re surprised. To be honest, I only ever hear it being used by Americans on Facebook, and I think I’ve only heard it twice “in real life” in my six years in Norway…

      1. You actually hear uff da in Norway a lot. Especially in Oslo and a town I’m from called Gjøvik. I’ve actually never heard an American use it. But it is very common in Norway

  3. well being Norwegian and reading most of these are kind of getting my brain to think though all the stuff I’ve said during my 14 years of living, and ‘tullebukk’, is like a word for a nonsense goat , like jumping around being crazy pulling many pranks(like mention before),or sometimes its just meant to tell someone they are a funny idiot, ‘Tullebukk’ is usually used for kids, this word isn’t used too much anymore as of most children are only sitting inside playing video games(been there, done that.. still do, but i do also see the real world) and also i still don’t ever recall hearing ‘Å være midt i smørøyet’ can someone please tell me the actual meaning of this word??
    Thank you.
    (i have a mental problem of just saying thank you whenever i type, write or talk to multiple people at once, which is really annoying(please tell me im not the only one..(u also have a problem of putting many brackets in on the same message))) (so it usually looks very bad. like seen.)
    Thank you, again.(im sorry if i have offended anyone in this message, if so, feel free to send an email, or reply. Thx)

  4. My grandma was 2nd generation in the U.S. Both of her parents immigrated from Norway in the late 1800s. I remember her using “Uff da” as an exclamation.
    There are some other words she used that I haven’t been able to find anything on. These are the phonetic spellings.
    “Feasyfly” which I think was for passing gas.
    “Feeda!” was used for something gross.
    Apparently Lutefisk was feeda.
    Does anyone recognize these words?

    1. Feeda = Fyda! or Fy da! Used to express disgust,
      loathing, contempt or annoyance.”Fy” is an old word and it’s origins are actually derived from the sound of spitting. Ptui!

      Feasyfly = Fise. To pass gas.

      Hope it helps 🙂

    2. Well, I do recognize that Lutefisk is gross. 😉 As native born Norwegians (from Oslo and Moss), no one in my family cares for lutefisk, ranging from simply not caring for it to an active loathing.

  5. To use computer programs (such as Google Translate) to translate, can often produce questionable results. Many times modern programs don’t know the meaning of words from a hundred years ago. While translating some text from a bygdbok, the bygdboker used the term “gan”, in quotes, in this sentence: “Baade han og hans hustru skulde være noen trold og slemme til aa drive med “gan”. ”
    I can find no definition for the word “gan”. The translation program (Google Translate) translates the sentence this way: “Both he and his wife were to be some trolls and bad guys to drive the “gan”.”
    What do you think that sentence says in understandable English? (I don’t think the bygdboker is referring to the couple as a ‘Bonnie & Clyde’. Or is it?)

    Thank you!

  6. Amusing piece! About “takk for sist”: I’d say it’s usually used when you have seen the person pretty recently, especially at a party or some other social gathering. If it’s been quite some time, you’re more likely to say: “Lenge siden sist!” (long time since I last saw you!)

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