Doing “number” on you

Not just the handling of numbers themselves, but also translation between English and Danish of the very word Number can do a number on any unsuspecting bi-linguist.

In English, the word Number has at least three distinct possible meanings. Since it remains the same word, this is not always apparent to an English-speaker. In Danish, each of those three meanings must be addressed by its own DIFFERENT word: nummer, antal or tal. And there are further complications (and an English-language idiom mystery explained)… But more about those later.

In Danish, “nummer” must be used when English number is approximately synonymous to “a number/label displayed on something” or “a ranking achieved“, “antal” is used when English a number (of) is approximately synonymous to “a count of“, and lastly “tal” is used when number is approximately synonymous to digit.

English ==> Danish:

The number of solutions to this equation is three ==> Antallet af løsninger til denne ligning er tre

The number 2 is one of the solutions ==> Tallet 2 er en af løsningerne

Replace batteries with the same number and type of batteries as originally installed in the equipment ==> WRONG!: Udskift batterier med batterier af samme nummer og type som de oprindeligt installerede i udstyret (this is correct Danish, but the wrong meaning “use batteries with the same number printed on them”) CORRECT!: Udskift batterier med samme antal og type af batterier som de oprindeligt installerede i udstyret (this is the correct meaning: “use the same number of batteries”)

He lives on Baker Street, in number 221B ==> Han bor på Baker Street i nummer 221B.

He finished the triathlon bike race in second place ==> Han kom ind i triathlon cykelløbet som nummer 2

You could not see his number on his bike racing shirt ==> Man kunne ikke se hans nummer på hans cykeltrøje

Paint by numbers ==> Paint-by-numbers, mal med tal

Strength in numbers ==> Styrke i tal

There’s a fourth possible translation for number: When English number refers to an unknown amount of (somethings), Danish often prefers to use the Danish word for a row: række instead:

English ==> Danish:

This equation has a number of solutions ==> Denne ligning har en række løsninger

That happened a number of years ago ==> Det skete for en række år siden

It should also be noted that the abbreviation of “number” is DIFFERENT in Danish and in English:
Danish: nr.
English: no.

But wait, there’s more very interesting “number theory”:  the word nummer has two further meanings in Danish that it does not in (current) English. Et nummer is also an act that a performer performs. Typically a short second-rate act, like a magician’s trick or a circus act. Or an encore at a concert is “an extra number”: et ekstranummer.

English ==> Danish:

And then he did this stupid thing ==> Og så lavede han det her dumme nummer

So, in Danish the expression “do a number on someone” makes perfect sense! You’ve been exposed to a cheap magical trick, you’ve been duped, cheated. This is interesting because, a simple Google search for “origins of “did a number on me”” reveals that English-speakers and language specialists are generally very puzzled by the origins of this expression and can’t offer a logical explanation. In (current) English it makes no sense. Could it be that the expression has been actually adopted from Danish? I would venture to postulate that. 🙂

The other Danish meaning of nummer is not what you’d expect: the cute name for the behind that we sit on is en numse. This often gets made further cute by referring to it as et nummer. So, visiting ladies: when a Danish man on the street tells you in passing that you have an excellent number, “sikke et fint nummer!”, he is most likely NOT referring to your height or your bank account… 🙂

Yes, it is my business.

In the course of translation one comes across legal language, literature, marketing language, medical, business lingo, comedy, tragedy etc. etc..

I’d like to share in this column few things I have learned about business language and some tricky parts and pitfalls when translating between English and Danish corporate lingo.

In general, in English business language the people running a company’s day-to-day operations are called the Executives. These are the guys or gals who are CEOs, presidents, vice-presidents, deputy presidents etc. In all but small, privately owned businesses, the Executives in turn report to a committee of people, who meet once a quarter or once a month and who make sure, or at least are supposed to make sure, that business is conducted well. These guys are called the Board of Directors or the Supervisory Board. Lastly, there’s an annual meeting of Shareholders, which usually is tasked with electing the Board of Directors, which in turn appoints the Executives.

Often the largest mistakes come from the simplest causes. In Danish, the Executives are called “Direktører”. So “Direktører” are NOT the guys or gals who sit on the Board of Directors! Very often I have seen English <-> Danish translations of annual reports and such making the fundamental mistake of equating “direktører” to “directors”, as the two words “obviously” are very alike. And that is wrong.

Danish ==> English
Bestyrelsen –> the Board of Directors
Direktion(en) –> (the) Executive staff
Direktør –> Executive

When the annual accounts (UK) or annual statements (USA) are presented, they have been audited by an independent auditor. The act of auditing is called “Revision” in Danish, and the person performing the task is a “Revisor”. Unfortunately, the word “revision” is also used in Danish to mean the same as in English: “English: revision, change”.  There’s a better word for “revision, change” in Danish: “revidering”, but it’s losing the battle to the shorter “revision”.

Danish ==> English
Revision –> Audit OR Revision, Change
Revisor –> Auditor
Revidering –> Reevaluation, Revision

Context is everything. So, the Danish sentence

Danish ==> English
En revision af virksomhedens kvalitetsstyringssystem er sat i gang. –>
WRONG: An audit of the company’s quality management system has been started.
CORRECT: A revision (or change) of the company’s quality management system has been started.

 En revision af virksomhedens årsregnskab er sat i gang. –>
CORRECT: An audit of the company’s annual report has been started.
WRONG: A revision (or change) of the company’s annual report has been started.

And more on the issue of accounting. In US English “accounts” are the customers one sells to, while “accounting” is what one does to count the money.

Danish ==> English
Det overordnede ansvar for afdelingen, inkl. regnskab, var inkluderet i stillingsbeskrivelsen ==>
WRONG: The overall responsibility for the management of the department, incl. accounts, was included in the job description.
CORRECT: The overall responsibility for the management of the department, incl. accounting, was included in the job description.

So, following a change, let’s say the employees will be notified by email. Danish has adopted the English word “mail” (as well as “e-mail”) to solely refer to the new kind of mail, i.e. email. Regular mail is called “post” in Danish. So,

 Danish ==> English
Medarbejderne adviseres via mail –> The workers will be advised by EMAIL (not mail)

Termination vs. resignation:
In English there are two distinctly different words that differentiate between someone being fired and someone quitting his job: termination and resignation: Danish also has two words: opsigelse and fratræden, respectively. However the matter can get unnecessary complicated because, while “Danish: at opsige” means “English: to terminate, fire someone”, the reversal of words means exactly the opposite: “Danish: at sige op” means “English: to quit”.

Danish ==> English
Opsigelse –> Termination
At opsige (direktøren) –&

gt; To terminate (the executive)
At sige (jobbet) op  –> To quit (the job)
Fratræden –> Resignation
Resignation –> Resignation, Despair

I dont always speak lingo
Working for a living

Sounds like the same word in both languages — but it’s not.

While many words in English and Danish share similar roots, spelling and meanings, of course some others just look very similar to each other — but mean completely different things:

English –> Danish:
===============

Husk –> Skal, avne
Remember–> Husk

Men –> Mænd
But  –> Men

Fed –> Fodrede, bespiste
Fat –> Fed

Where is the danger? –> Hvor er faren?
Where is the father?   –> Hvor er faren? [yes, it’s exactly the same as the sentence above. Further context would actually be needed to decipher the proper meaning in Danish! 🙂 ]

To stick to each other –> At klæbe sammen
Poke with a needle –> Stikke med en nål  [interesting that the English verb “stick” keeps things together, while the Danish “stik” acts as more of a separating action…]

Gift –> Gave
Married –> Gift
Poison –> Gift

God is mad –> Gud er vred
Good ice, food –> God is, mad

Blessings!

Divine ece cream god-mad-let-at-lave-8_-rev_-udg__133644

 

 

Danish: Når skibet er i fart, så ved jeg, at jeg lever ≠ English: I fart, therefore I am.

Danish city names… Many of them are funny-sounding even in Danish. Behold this little poem, I found on the web, sharing the wonder of Danish city names with English speakers:

Do you come from Dog-place (Hundested)?
Or maybe Newcastlle (Nyborg)?
Could it be from Get-castle (Fåborg)?
No, I am certain you are from the city of Medium-speed (Middelfart).
Or is that Medium-velocity???

Ah, the Danish word “Fart”… It means nothing naughty in Danish. Just the same as the German word for “Speed”, “Fahrt” – except the Danes made it even faster by omitting the anyway silent “h”. The legend has it that when Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain visited Denmark, the signs on Danish elevators saying “I fart” (“In motion”) were discreetly covered up in order not to offend Her Majesty.

Yes, it’s true:

Middelfart Yes

 Danish ==> English:
Fart   –>  Speed, Velocity
I fart –> In motion. moving
Middelfart –> The city of Middelfart
Middel fart  –> Middle speed
Fartplan –> (Train, bus) schedule
Fartkontrol –> Speed check
Turistfart –> Tourist coach, tourist bus
Himmelfart –> (Divine) Ascension
Kristi Himmelfart –> (Christ’s) Ascension
Kristi Himmelfartsdag –> Ascension Day, Ascension Thursday (40 days after Easter resurrection)
Overfart –> (Ferry) crossing
God overfart –> Have a good crossing, a safe trip

Here is a couple of bi-lingual signs on the ferry between Branden and Fur, near Skive in Jutland. The Danish sign wishes you “God overfart”. Do not be alarmed. We’re not talking about divine flatulence in Danish. but merely a wish for a pleasant crossing. All 3 minutes of it. Yes, that’s how long it takes for the ferry to cross the waters between Branden and Fur.
And let me mention that the island of Fur is definitely worth a visit (unique fossils in layers millions of years old):.

Denmark 2013 707 DanskDenmark 2013 708 Eng Circled

Anyway, good-bye for now. I am off to the beautiful city of Assens!:
🙂

Denmark 2013 491 Assens 20

I am not making this stuff up! Nor down…

This morning my Danish-American better half uttered in Danish: “Så han blev beskyldt for at lave ting op”. This is a word-by-word, “I am not quite awake”-type direct translation of English that she and I catch ourselves doing and which amuses us tremendously whenever we do catch these “Danglish” slip-ups. -And puzzles our Danish friends whenever the internal language filters don’t go in effect in time… 🙂

What she meant to say (in English) was: “So, he was accused of making things up”, i.e. conjuring things, letting his fantasy run. One can see that English and Danish share similar roots in that the preposition “up” also appears in Danish in the translation of this particular meaning of “making up”, however in Danish it goes in front of the word and in Danish you “up-find” things, not “up-make” things.

So far so good, but when one realizes how many meanings “Make up” has in English, things get really, really dicey. If you want to see confusing machine translations, try these:

English ==> Danish:
Make things up (invent)                          –> Opfinde ting
Make up (reconcile, forgive someone)   –>  Tilgive, forsones
Make-up (cosmetics)                              –> Make-up, makeup, sminke
Make up for lost time                              –> Indhente den tabte tid, indhente det forsømte
Make up one’s mind                                –> Beslutte sig
I’ll make it up to you (I’ll fix the wrongs)  –> Jeg vil kompensere dig, jeg vil gøre det godt igen
Make out with you (passionate kissing)   –> Omfavne og kysse dig
Make (verb: to manufacture)                     –> Lave
Make (noun: a brand name)                      –> Varemærke, fabrikat
“Make my Day!” (Dirty Harry)                   –> ?? (Forskøn min dag ?)
Make my bed!                                           –> Red min seng!

Sounds like it’s time for me to make like a tree and leave… 🙂

94LEj8cP93-10 make my day Make up to you yeah-so-if

My baby just sent me a letter. And the letter is an S?

A letter (i.e. correspondence)  that I write to you is of course made out of single letters (i.e. characters). English has the funny duality of calling these two somewhat different things the same: a Letter.

English ==> Danish
A letter, a character => et bogstav
A letter (correspondence) ==> et brev
A letter (one who rents out an apartment) ==> en udlejer

According to http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/letter this duality between the first two meanings of “Letter” is another remnant of the old Norman/Saxon intermixing of French and Saxon (and Latin and Greek and other…) words, which through perturbation of centuries have become the same in modern English. So, in old French a single character of the alphabet was Lettre and in Latin it was Littera. (A large collection of letters is of course Literature in Latin – an expression well known in English and most other languages today). There is a verb in French pertaining to a person combining multiple characters: lettré (~to spell out, transliterate). That is probably the origin of the other meaning of the English “Letter”, as when writing correspondence. Because one is indeed combining letters when writing a letter (“On lettré” in French)…

But that was not the intended topic of this blog-post… Funny things happen when a single letter sneaks its way into or out of a sentence:

English ==> Danish
0% interest ==> rentefrit
0 interest    ==> ingen interesse

Danish ==>English
Hr. Jensens kridtholder ==> Mr. (teacher) Jensen’s chalk holder
Hr. Jensens skridtholder ==> Mr. (teacher) Jensen’s jock strap

Positionspil ==> An arrow showing your position (on a map)
Positionsspil ==> A game based on position (like chess)

Klik på flisen ==> Click on a tile (like in Windows 8)
Klik på fissen ==> Click on female genitalia….

Motivational-poster  Anal tvthe-box-tops-the-letter-ricordi-internationalerrorists

 

 

 

“Hellere ramme ved siden af end slet ikke at ramme…”

The title of this posting is one of those untranslatable sayings that makes it fun to study languages and ponder their subtle differences. The simple English word “to miss”, like in “I missed the target” or “I missed the deadline”, does not exist in Danish! Danes either “don’t hit the target” or “hit next to it” or “hit past it”:

English ==> Danish:
I missed the target ==> Jeg ramte ved siden af målet (~I hit next to the target)
I missed the target ==> Jeg ramte forbi målet (~I hit past the target)
I missed the target ==> Jeg ramte ikke målet (~I didn’t hit the target)

Thus the popular Danish saying in the title is really a piece of nonsense that says “it’s better to miss the target by hitting next to it than not to hit it at all”. Danes use it congenially as meaning “Better luck next time!”. Of course, one could also put on a pseudo-cultural hat on and “deduce” that, just like Eskimos and native Greenlanders have about 20 different words for “Snow”, so it is also that Danes have at least 3 different degrees of “Missing a target”…. I don’t know what it says about the Danes if it were so… Along those lines, knowing the Danish weather, one would think that it really would be more useful for Danes to have about 20 words for “Rain”. They do. In essence there’s only word for rain (“regn”), but because of the Danish love of compound words you can get a lot of mileage out of that:

English==>Danish:
Rain ==> Regn
Drizzle==> Finregn
Heavy rain==> Styrtregn
Very heavy rain ==> Skybrud (~broken clouds 🙂 )
and efterårsregn   forårsregn   gaveregn  helårsregn   kugleregn   slagregn   småregn   sommerregn  støvregn   vinterregn…etc…

A symmetrical problem occurs when trying to translate the popular English saying “Hit or miss”, like in “In June the weather in London can be hit or miss”, into Danish. You basically can’t do it literally, because in Danish “hit or miss” would become “hit or don’t hit”, which really doesn’t sound like anything worth saying. Instead we have the Danish version of it, which mimics the rhythm with two made-up words: “hip som hap”.

hit-or-miss-7103-scg-7103-003-600x600

has-anyone-seen-dane-dane-missing-nazi-skinhead-hitler-cartm-demotivational-poster-1236530265

 

The Gene Genie

The English sentence said “To generate a one-time passcode, please follow these steps…”, which was translated as “For at genere en engangsadgangskode følg venligst følgende trin…” . The problem here is a simple typographical error. Two Danish words look very much alike, but do not mean the same.

Danish ==> English:
At genere ==> To annoy
At generere => To generate

So the Danish sentence above means something to the extent of “In order to annoy a one-time passcode, please follow these steps…” 🙂

But that’s not the only problem with Danish “gene”…

English has the antonyms “Advantage” and “Disadvantage”. In German there is “Voorteil” and “Nachteil”. Basically, just from looking at these words, it is obvious that they are somehow related. Danish is, however, quirky in this department. Even Danes scratch their heads about this one (http://sprogvildkab.blogspot.com/2012/08/bagdele.html . Funny!). You see, in Danish the word for Advantage is “Fordel”, which, like in German, is a combination of “for” (English: for, in favor)  and “del” (English: part). The opposite of “Fordel” in Danish is “Gene” or “Ulempe” . There is a fine word “Bagdel”, but that, -to the bemusement and puzzlement of Danes-, means “buttocks, the behind”… Drumroll, please!…. 🙂

Shape up your butt! :) The Jean Genie

 

English is a Scandinavian language!

Interesting news swept the linguistic newswires at the end of 2012.
This is a direct copy from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121127094111.htm :
——
Linguist Makes Sensational Claim: English Is a Scandinavian Language

Nov. 27, 2012 — “Have you considered how easy it is for us Norwegians to learn English?” asks Jan Terje Faarlund, professor of linguistics at the University of Oslo. “Obviously there are many English words that resemble ours. But there is something more: its fundamental structure is strikingly similar to Norwegian. We avoid many of the usual mistakes because the grammar is more or less the same.

Faarlund and his colleague Joseph Emmonds, visiting professor from Palacký University in the Czech Republic, now believe they can prove that English is in reality a Scandinavian language, in other words it belongs to the Northern Germanic language group, just like Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic and Faroese. This is totally new and breaks with what other language researchers and the rest of the world believe, namely that English descends directly from Old English. Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, is a West Germanic language, which the Angles and Saxons brought with them from Northern Germany and Southern Jylland when they settled in the British Isles in the fifth century.

Old English died out
“Modern English is a direct descendant of the language of Scandinavians who settled in the British Isles in the course of many centuries, before the French-speaking Normans conquered the country in 1066,” says Faarlund. He points out that Old English and Modern English are two very different languages. Why?
“We believe it is because Old English quite simply died out while Scandinavian survived, albeit strongly influenced of course by Old English,” he says.
The ‘cohabitation’ between the British and the Scandinavians was largely hostile. Both fought for political hegemony. The descendants of the Vikings gained control of the eastern and northern parts of the country. The Danelaw was under the control of Scandinavian chiefs for half a century.
Like most colonists, the Scandinavian-speaking inhabitants found no reason to switch to the language of the country they had arrived in. “One especially important, geographic point in our study is that the East Midlands region, where the spoken language later developed into Modern English, coincides almost exactly with the densely populated, southern part of the Danelaw,” says the professor.
The language changed a great deal in the period after the Normans arrived. The miserable conditions people lived in at the time resulted in a complete merger of the two previously separate groups of people — the Old English speakers and the Scandinavian speakers — and out of this came Middle English — the predecessor of Modern English.

Adopted words they already had
The language adopted many words from the Danelaw’s inhabitants who were of Norwegian and Danish descent. For example, all the lexical words in this sentence are Scandinavian: He took the knife and cut the steak. Only he, the and and come from Old English.
“What is particularly interesting is that Old English adopted words for day-to-day things that were already in the language. Usually one borrows words and concepts for new things. In English almost the reverse is true — the day-to-day words are Scandinavian, and there are many of them,” says Faarlund.
Here are some examples: anger, awe, bag, band, big, birth, both, bull, cake, call, cast, cosy, cross, die, dirt, dream, egg, fellow, flat, gain, get, gift, give, guess, guest, hug, husband, ill, kid, law, leg, lift, likely, link, loan, loose, low, mistake, odd, race, raise, root, rotten, same, seat, seem, sister, skill, skin, skirt, sky, steak, though, thrive, Thursday, tight, till, trust, ugly, want, weak, window, wing, wrong.
The researchers believe that Old English already had 90 per cent of these concepts in its own vocabulary.

Took over the grammar
But the Scandinavian element was not limited to the vocabulary, which is normal when languages come into contact with each other. Even though a massive number of new words are on their way into a language, it nevertheless retains its own grammar. This is almost a universal law.
“But in England grammatical words and morphemes — in other words the smallest abstract, meaningful linguistic unit — were also adopted from Scandinavian and survive in English to this day.”

Scandinavian syntax
The two researchers show that the sentence structure in Middle English — and thus also Modern English — is Scandinavian and not Western Germanic. “It is highly irregular to borrow the syntax and structure from one language and use it in another language. In our days the Norwegians are borrowing words from English, and many people are concerned about this. However, the Norwegian word structure is totally unaffected by English. It remains the same. The same goes for the structure in English: it is virtually unaffected by Old English.”

“How can you illustrate this?”
“We can show that wherever English differs syntactically from the other Western Germanic languages — German, Dutch, Frisian — it has the same structure as the Scandinavian languages.” Here are some examples:
* Word order: In English and Scandinavian the object is placed after the verb:
I have read the book.
Eg har lese boka.
German and Dutch (and Old English) put the verb at the end.
Ich habe das Buch gelesen.
* English and Scandinavian can have a preposition at the end of the sentence.
This we have talked about.
Dette har vi snakka om.
* English and Scandinavian can have a split infinitive, i.e. we can insert a word between the infinitive marker and the verb.
I promise to never do it again.
Eg lovar å ikkje gjera det igjen.
* Group genitive:
The Queen of England’s hat.
Dronninga av Englands hatt.
“All of this is impossible in German or Dutch, and these kinds of structures are very unlikely to change within a language. The only reasonable explanation then is that English is in fact a Scandinavian language, and a continuation of the Norwegian-Danish language which was used in England during the Middle Ages.”
“But why the inhabitants of the British Isles chose the Scandinavian grammar is something we can only speculate on,” says Jan Terje Faarlund.

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Oslo. The original article was written by Trine Nickelsen, APOLLON Research Magazine.
————-

I suspected this all along!… This would then make USA also part of Scandinavia? it kind of makes sense given that formerly Danish Greenland straddles the no-man’s land between Europe and North America 🙂
And apparently the new discovery would also make this graphic depiction of language-evolution from http://facepunch.com/showthread.php?t=1236024&page=3 slightly wrong:

eHWNv

That’s why he said “I have a dream” and not “I have vision”….

There’s a famous Danish sketch (in Danish) from 1964 called “Skolekammerater”, [English: “(High)school buddies”] in which two middle-aged men meet on the street, recognize each other as former high school mates and for about 5 minutes reminisce about their joint heroics in high school… Along the way they have slightly different recollections of the various events, which makes the whole sketch funny, until they finally realize, that while their high school experiences were similar, they actually weren’t joint, as they did not go to the same school and actually never met before… Or as they summarize it themselves in the final moments: “By Golly, then we aren’t even us!”… 🙂

I am reminded of this when I come across some words that are spelled the same or similarly in both English and Danish and look as if they came out of the same “school” – but yet have a different meaning in each language.

One such word is “Vision”. In English it is the ability of our eyes to see. In Danish that is called “Syn”. But the word “Vision” also exists in Danish and is equivalent to English “A vision”, i.e. an ability to see something that isn’t there.

English –> Danish:
Vision –> Syn
A vision –> En vision

“Refusion”  is another tricky one. Ask an English-speaking Dane, like me, to translate the meaning of “Refusion” into Danish and you’ll probably get that it either means something synonymous to “a Denial”, someone saying “No!”, or a repetition of a “fusion”-process in which metals or atoms are melted together. In Danish, however, “Refusion” actually means “a Refund (of your money)”.  But then it turns out trickier than even that: I looked up the English definition of the word “Refusion” and to my surprise it turns out that my Danish language-mind got the best of me. I thought “Refusion” was what happened in English when someone refused something. That is not correct. The act of refusing is called “A Refusal” in English… I wonder how many Danes reading this made the same mistake at first read-through?

English–>Danish:
Refusion–>Re-fusion or refusion
Refund–>Refusion
Refusal–>Afslag

[Sorry, dear reader, you will not get a refund for the time we’ve spent together here. Hopefully none is needed. 🙂 ]

The reassuring thing is: A spade is still a spade in both languages!…well…mostly…unless you’re referring to the playing card color! 🙂

English–>Danish:
A Spade (digging utensil, not a shovel)–>En Spade
Spades (card color ) –> Spar
A Spade (a card of that color ) –> En Spar

Skolekammeraterheart_spade_club_greeting_cards_pk_of_10spades