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A Thousand Thank Yous

A multilingual thank you

In my last contribution, we looked at how to not say “please” in Norwegian.  You may have gotten the impression (probably because I gave it to you) that Norwegians are rude queue-jumpers who constantly ask you to buy them beer without ever saying please.

Now that may or may not be always true, but there is one area of politeness where Norwegians exceed even the wildest dreams of bowler-hatted Brits: saying thank you. Norwegians say thank you all the time.  I can't decide whether it's a national pastime or some sort of endemic disease, but which-ever it is, I like it.

Thank you in Norwegian

In Norwegian, saying “thank you” is even easier than in English.  You just say takk. That's it.

No need for the “you”, just say “thanks”: takk. Make sure to pronounce the a short, and the k long, because fint, takk means “fine, thanks”, but fint tak means “nice roof” (that was my best joke – hope you liked it).

Of course, you can embellish upon this to get even more specific types of thank-yous.  These include super-secret Norwegian thank-yous which you MUST say at the appropriate times if you want to maintain to be accepted in society.  Let's take a look at some of these:

Norwegian English literal English interpretive
Takk for sist Thanks for last Thanks for the last time we met
Takk for maten Thanks for the food Thanks for the food
Takk for no
[Takk for nå]
Thanks for now Thanks for what we just did (between people who are close)
Takk for laget Thanks for the company Thanks for the company
Takk for i dag Thanks for today See you tomorrow
Takk for innsatsen Thanks for your effort Good work
Tusen takk A thousand thank-yous Thanks very much

 

Some of these you may have heard before, and if you start noticing them, the sound waves will create a permanent tattoo in your inner ear, because they really are used that often.

Let's start from the bottom, and then jump around a bit in a confusing pattern.

The first time someone said the phrase tusen takk to me it was for handing them a spoon, something which may have been worthy of a single thank-you, but probably not a thousand.  I assumed this thanker was being patronising, giving me the sort of thanks reserved for saving a cat, or giving someone a bicycle for their birthday (one with gear and bullhorn-shaped handlebars), and was therefor being sarcastic.  However, tusen takk is actually used in a way that is much closer to “thanks a lot”, or “thanks very much” – looks like that thanker wasn't such a uh… thanker after all.

When a simple thank you isn't enough!

A lot of these thank-yous are said at specific times or in specific circumstances, and are mandatory.  When you meet your Norwegian friend for the first time since spending time together, you are required to thank them for that time by saying takk for sist.  This shows that you appreciate the time you spent together.

If you're working for a Norwegian company, then at the end of the day, you'll probably hear a lot of people letting off a round of takk for i dag randomly around the office, indiscriminately assaulting co-workers with politeness.  It's a really nice way of saying “I'm going home, suckers” (actually, you're saying thanks for all the little things your co-workers did for you today).  Another commonly heard thank-you at work is takk for innsatsen, meaning “good work”, usually at the end of a difficult or long day, or a special effort to get something done.

If you're invited to a friend's house for dinner, then you should use a napkin.  What?  This is about thank-yous is it?  Alright, you must say takk for maten once you've finished eating, to show that you appreciate the time and/or money put in to making/ordering in the food.

If, after eating your friends your cooking, and inspecting their cat-rescue equipment, you decide it's time to go, then when you've got your wellingtons, waterproof-trousers, and heavy winter jacket on, and are half way out the door, you should say in a sort of sing-song voice takk for no!  Since, apart from the three-hour slide show of their trip to Agder, you had a good time, and want to thank your friend for this (if you're not interested in thanking your friends for anything, then leave after dessert – you've got what you came for).

A Norwegian thank you note
Takk by fotologic

 

If you manage to use takk for laget, then your Norwegian friends will think you've been reading this blog, since it's only used quite rarely (it's the most secret of the Norwegian secret thank-yous).  You say it if you've spent a good deal of the day together, and want to say something lovely.  Again, you're telling the person that you appreciate that they're giving up some of their precious, precious time to sit around with you and eat ice cream/go to an antiques fair.

As with thank-yous in your own language, the most important thing in Norwegian is to be the one to say them first, because otherwise you'll look like you're just copying someone else, and will not get the full politeness-credit.  If you're not quick enough, then, in a one-on-one situation, you can reinstate your position in the politeness hierarchy by saying berre hyggeleg [bare hyggelig] – “don't mention it”.

This list is not exhaustive (although making it was exhausting), so keep your ears out for other exciting(?) things Norwegians say thanks for. Speaking of saying thanks, this article did take up quite a bit of my time, and there is a comment section, you know…

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About the Author: Bryce Miller

25 Comments

  1. I love this post. Well done and tusen takk! ‘Twas an enjoyable read.
    And if I may add something; “takk for her” (her=here) can be used in similar situations as “takk for no/nå”. For instance, I’d say “takk for her” when leaving my grandparents’ house after having stayed there for a few days, or after a very enjoyable dinner, or when leaving someone’s house after a cosy party or get-together. This phrase might be very typical for the Østfold area, though..
    Is the “takk for laget” special to Bergen area (Vestafjells)? I’ve never heard it before, and instantly thought about someone thanking Norway for having such a wonderful sports team (in, say, football or curling).

    You are going to tell about the differences between nynorsk and bokmål, right? And dialects? 😀

    1. I don’t know about vestlandet, but ‘takk for laget’ is exceedingly common in trøndelag (especially the north) after almost any kind of social gathering. Not sure about the etymology, but “lag” means something together, and is also used about romantic relationships; e.g. “å vær i lag”. Probably just lost the social content in parts of norway, retaining the meaning within sports.

      Great post! A couple of foreign reflections about norwegian is always appreciated.

      1. I can confirm this, in all over Trøndelag we like to say “Takk for laget”, I come from the South of Trøndelag ( there is not really much difference between south and north of Trøndelag though).

        Trøndelag is the best place to be ! 😉

  2. I’ve heard of some of these but not all – a great guide to politeness. Thank you is usually the first word I learn in a language. Now to master a few other phrases =)

  3. Thank you very much for an interesting and funny post! Tusen takk! You’re absolutely right! We Norwegians do say “takk” all the time! We’re not very good at giving positive feedbacks or to elaborate why we are thankful all the time, but at least we say “takk”. Just saying “takk” is indeed very polite here. When children have learned to say “takk”, Norwegian parents are quite pleased with themselves! On the other hand, if you’re used getting more elaborate feedbacks than just a “thank you” (or one of the specific thank-yous) you might wait forever for more! Like until Christmas or your 50th birthday!

    There are of course even more ways to say thanks, and some of them are regional variations. Another way of saying thanks is “takk for den” (“thanks for that one”) or “takk for det” (“thanks for it”). Let’s say you’ve manage to get your neighbour to loan you his screwdriver. After receiving the screwdriver you may talk about something else for a while, because you want to or just to be polite to the guy who lent you the screwdriver. As you are about to leave, you lift the screwdriver slightly in the air and say “takk for den” just to once again thank your neighbour for lending you the screwdriver. This way of saying thanks can also be used sarcastically. If your neighbour stabs you in the back at the building society meeting, you may say “takk for den” or “takk for det” as a way of saying “thanks for nothing”.

    1. “Tak for den/det” sounds almost exactly like we use “Thanks for that/this” in British English. Wonder if it came over with the Vikings?

      1. I have heard the original Germanic Language (of which English is Germanic) left Germany, went north to Scandinavia first, and then migrated southwest to England, Friesland, Netherlands, etc… which explains why the West Frisian language (and to some extent Dutch) is so much more similar to Old English rather than High German. In other words, English did not come directly from Germany. By the time English came into existence it was a descendant from the Old Norse Language so your comment about ‘Tak for det’ perhaps coming from the Vikings is quite possible.

  4. Nice read, some of it I’ve never really thought about, just taken for granted, and it’s actually open my eyes a bit about norms and customs in this country.

    A note about “takk for laget”: A “lag”, at least here in Trondheim and surrounding areas, is used about anything from a dinner with friends, to a party, to an event like celebrating a relative’s child’s “konfirmasjon”.

    Also, you left out “Hjertelig takk” (heartfelt thanks), or just “hjertelig”. In my experience it is more common than “tusen takk”, which it seems to me is mostly used by foreigners nowadays.

  5. When a friend visiting Norway wanted to thank a helpful store clerk, he said, “Mange tusen takk.” …an expression of appreciation used sometimes in our very Norwegian part of North Dakota. The clerk looked at him dismissively and said (in perfect English): “You’re overdoing it.”

    …just discovered your interesting blog. Takk!

    1. On my side of the South Dakota/North Dakota border we also said “Mange tusen takk.” . My mother’s first language was Norweigan even though she was born in Coon Valley, Wisconsin in 1923.

  6. Thank you for suggesting an ignorant-sounding insult/joke:
    tak for innsatsen
    or ‘roof worker’ punning with ‘thanks for the work’. To imply that a professional is at the work level of a roofer, sarcastically.
    A good read. Thanks again.

  7. I enjoyed reading all the variations of ‘thank you’ and found some of it very amusing Are people still referred to as foreigners? I would rather hear ‘an overseas visitor’ or, if their nationality is known, ‘an American, English, or German visitor’, which I feel is far more respectful

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