Danes in space!! No, sorry, this is about Danes ‘n space

The Danes have actually been to space. First, many Danish companies provided software and equipment to NASA and the European Space Agency, maybe most prominently Christian Rovsing A/S back in the 60s and 70s. In 2015, Andreas Mogensen spent a week in the International Space Station and became the first (and so far only) Danish astronaut. This, of course, was predicted by the hilarious Danish full-length cartoon comedy “Rejsen til Saturn” (Journey to Saturn) from 2008 based on an earlier comic book of the same name.

But, of course, this is not the kind of space, we want to talk about here… Our space-challenge at hand is about whether a space should or should not be inserted between two Danish words. The issue has risen in urgency since the invasion of the English language and its handling of two nouns next to each other, where the first noun actually acts as an adjective describing the other noun. Things like “winter shoes” or “work clothes” are two words in English, where in Danish, since they naturally belong together, they become one word: vintersko and arbejdstøj. Like the Americans would say: “some things just belong together, like peanut butter and jelly”, where Danes take the consequence of that and make “peanutbutterandjelly”. Just kidding! -Every Dane knows that jelly goes on cheese and not on peanuts. 🙂

So, writing Danish with some knowledge of English grammar is firstly challenging in regards to whether to separate the words or not (when in doubt, you’re probably right going with a compound word in Danish). The second challenge is purely of Danes’ own making: after you’ve smooshed the two words together, you should also be able to pronounce the resulting word. Yes, some times two words just don’t become one word without putting up a fight. This is typically solved by inserting an extra ‘s’ if, for instance, the first word ends in a vowel and the second word also starts with a vowel. But if the insertion or omission of an ‘s’ produces a new legitimate Danish word , then things get funny. You can produce a brand new word that still has meaning, -just not the meaning you intended.

We caught a few of those one-letter bloopers in a previous posting. Here’s a collection of some further one-letter-off or one-space-too-little golden nuggets:

Danish ==> English
Arbejdstøj ==> work clothes
Arbejdsstøj ==> noise in the workplace

Rygbænke ==> back benches (exercise equipment)
Rygebænke ==> cigarette smoking benches

Flotte nylonstrømper ==> gorgeous nylon stocking
Flotte nylonstrømer ==> a gorgeous policeman made of nylon

Dyreartikler ==> items for animals
Dyre artikler ==> expensive items

Tekstilsalg ==> sale of fabric
Tekst til salg ==> text for sale (like for a blog or an advertising)

Børnepuder ==> pillows for children
Børnepudder ==> baby powder

Billige kvinder frakker ==> cheap women (in) coats [this is not proper Danish, but I’ve seen an ad with this headline]
Billige kvindefrakker ==> cheap coats for women [this was the intended meaning]

Lederuddannelse ==> Leadership education
Læderuddannelse ==> Education in leather

Uddannet ==> educated
Uuddannet ==> uneducated
Udannet ==> showing bad manners

Buskrydder ==> a hedge trimmer [=busk+rydder]
Buskrydder ==> an alcoholic drink (a bitter) enjoyed on the bus [=bus+krydder]

Bærbusk ==> berry bush
Bær busk ==> carry a bush

Forretning ==> business
Forrentning ==> interest on a loan

Fladskærm ==> flat screen
Faldskærm ==> parachute

Skifte tid ==> to change time
Skiftetid ==> shift-hours, duration of a work shift
Skift tidsplan ==> change time schedule (skift is here a verb, so no compounding)
Skiftetidsplan ==> shift-schedule (dash – is there because otherwise ‘shift schedule’ is ambiguous in English)

Slagterpigerne ==> the Butcher Girls
Slagter pigerne ==> (he/she) butchers the girls

Skær sild ==> cut the herring (fish)
Skærsild ==> purgatory

Krabbe klør ==> a crab is itching
Krabbeklør ==> crab claws

And some naughty ones! :):

Sameje ==> joint ownership
Samleje ==> intercourse

Bedstemors boller ==> grandma’s bread rolls
Bedstemorboller ==> grandma’s bread rolls [here the compounding results in REMOVAL of the s]
Bedstemor boller ==> grandma is having sex

Førstegangsydelse ==> First installment (of a loan payment)
Førstegangsnydelse ==> Enjoying the first time

Blære røv ==> bladder (and) ass [human parts]
Blærerøv ==> a boaster, a braggart

Fællesspisning ==> a community dinner
Fællespisning ==> group pissing

In 1986 a group of performance artists actually on purpose tricked the Copenhagen magistrate to give them a permit for fællespisning, where of course the magistrate believed that they were approving a fællesspisning, as this newspaper clip shows: 🙂

We appreciate your place of business!

Oh, the nuances and things that are left unsaid because we forgot that they were originally there (in a particular language), but today are just implied or “understood”.
Like the simple: “Meet me at 5!”. Of course we mean at 5 o’clock in English. But that’s a linguistic shortcut that the Danes do NOT take. If you say to a Dane “Mød mig på Femmeren”, he will think that you refer to a Café or a physical place called “The 5” or “Femmeren” (“The Fiver”). No, in Danish it must always be spelled out specifically that the 5 you refer to is a time, so “Mød mig klokken 5” is necessary. On the other hand, “Klokken 5” suffices in Danish without any preposition to specify the time. But in English, for some reason, an “at” has to be dragged into the picture:

Danish   ==> English:
Klokken   ==> O’Clock
Tid     ==> Time
Hvad tid? ==> What time?
Klokken 5   ==> At 5 O’clock

When we in English say “we appreciate your business”, we DON’T mean that we appreciate the way you’ve decorated the interior of your shop, or the beautiful view that we get by looking at your storefront. No, we mean “we appreciate OUR business WITH YOU”; the transaction, not the physical entity that is your business. For the physical entity where you conduct your business we have more specific words like shop, store, factory, corporation etc. –but we also often use the same word “business”.
Danish, of course, also has a number of words for various business entities, but only one word can be used exactly like “business” to mean BOTH the transaction and the place of transaction. That word is “forretning”. Therefore:

English: We appreciate your business and apologize for any inconvenience ==> NOT: Vi værdsætter din virksomhed og beklager ulejligheden (Means: ”We appreciate your business activity and apologize for any inconvenience”)
BUT: Vi værdsætter din forretning og beklager ulejligheden.

In the same vein:

English: Close the deal! ==>
NOT: ”Luk handlen!”, nor “Luk forretningen!” (“Close your shop!”)
BUT: “Få ordren!” (“Get the order”) or “Afslut forretningen (“Finish the deal”)

In English you can “conduct business” or “conduct a current” or “Conduct yourself appropriately”. Same word, different context. Not so in Danish:

English  ==> Danish:
To conduct business  ==> “At lave forretning” or “at gøre forretning” (“to make or do business”) or “at føre forretning” (this one means more to “run a (physical) store”).
To conduct a current  ==>  “At lede en strøm” or “at føre en strøm”.
To conduct yourself appropriately  ==> At opføre sig passende.

And which way does that “with” point again?

English  ==>  Danish:
Build trust with your customers ==>
NOT: Opbyg tillid til dine kunder (“Build more of your trust in your customers”)
BUT: Opbyg tillid hos dine kunder (“Build more of your customers’ trust in you”)

The word “with” has (at least) a double usage in English: “Do something together with someone” and “Leave something with someone”. In Danish, that would mean two different prepositions.
Vice versa: Danes commonly use the expression “Er du med?”, which means “Are you with me?” – but wit the “me” part left out. Because it’s just understood…
Are you with?

with or without you 12 spanish promo 1Lidt i fem



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


A story about history

The web brings with it many changes. Some times new words have appeared and entered the mainstream. In Danish the noun “Historik” (English: list of historical events, activity record) is such a relatively new addition to the vocabulary. While English has not chosen to distinguish between “History”, as taught in school, and “History”, as a record of your, say, historical activity on the web, Danes have.
In Danish your online history is “Historik”.

If a translation between English and Danish misses the correct word, things can quickly become funny, as both in English and Danish “History” has different double meanings:

In English there’s “History” (without a pronoun, or maybe with a “the” in front), which is what we learn about the Romans and the Incas in school, and there’s also “a history” which is what you get when you’ve been dating the wrong people.

In Danish “Historie” (without a pronoun) is what we learn in school. “En historie”, on the other hand, is a story. Often used to describe an unbelievable tale that your kid or lover may use to explain some strange coincidences of facts…

Thus I laughed when the following came across my desk:

Addition of a selection of payment methods also allows you to establish a successful selling history at the same time as you conduct business.  ==> Tilføjelse af flere betaligsmetoder giver dig også mulighed  for at etablere positive salgshistorier medens du sælger.

In English the Danish translation above means that you can establish some positive tales about your sales :-). The correct translation should have been: “Tilføjelse af flere betalingsmetoder giver dig samtidig mulighed for at opbygge en positiv salgshistorik medens du sælger.”

English ==> Danish:
(The) History  ==> Historie(n)
(A) History   ==> (En) Fortid, Ry, Omdømme
A Story   ==> En Historie
Online History   ==> Historik

4162010103910AM_history History Titanic

It’s not a Meg. It’s a mess.

My female Danish friend got an interesting hair cut. In places it looks like a bird’s nest. In other places it looks like a sexy Meg Ryan-style “Sleepless in Seattle” hairdo. Definitely has to be combed carefully to prevent it from looking too unkempt. Of course, according to this hilarious blog by “Copenhannah” about “How to look like a Dane“, unkempt looking hair is the epitome of looking like a true Dane… 🙂
Now, in Danish we have the words:

Danish ==> English:
en redelighed –> a mess
en rede –> a nest
at rede hĂĄr–> to comb hair
at rede seng –> to make the bed
at redde–> to save
rødder –> roots
rød –>red

Which caused my friend to utter this unique sentence in Danish:

“Man kan jo se mine røde rødder. Det er en redelighed. Jeg bliver nødt til at rede mit hĂĄr for at redde det fra at se ud som en rede.”

(English: “You can see my red roots. This is mess. I have to comb my hair to save it from looking like a nest.”)

This is a good Meg Ryan do.

This is a good Meg Ryan do.

Some times you can overdo the do.

Some times you can overdo the do.


Don't do this Meg Ryan do. It's more of a doo-doo..

Don’t do this Meg Ryan do. It’s more of a doo-doo..





Don’t get me started… No, wait… do!

Behold these two straightforward English sentences describing a system status:

“Maintenance – started at 9:30…”
“A problem – started at 9:30…”

Nothing seemingly “wrong” there… And yet there is a hidden issue which became apparent once the Danish translation surfaced.

You see the two English “started”-words are not 100% the same and the difference is best seen when switching to past tense: while we can say both “Maintenance – WAS started at 9:00” and “Maintenance – HAS started at 9:00”, the same symmetry does not apply to “an Error”: we can NOT say in English “Error – WAS Started at 9:00”, we can only say “Error – HAS started at 9:00”. This has to do with the strange nature of an error, we can not say about it that it actively “was started” (here “started” is practically an adverb, describing “was”). An error will typically occur by itself and we can just note a time when it has started (this “started” is a verb, past tense).

In Danish the difference between the two meanings is more visible, as the various cases actually get different word-endings:

English ==> Danish:
was started                 ==> blev startet, startedes
has started                  ==> har startet
started (verb)              ==> startede
started (adverb)          ==> startet

So, in Danish we can not use the (original) translation-pair:

Wrong Danish:
“Vedligeholdelse – startet kl. 9.00…”
“En fejl – startet kl. 9.00…”

The correct translation is:

Correct Danish:
“Vedligeholdelse – startede kl. 9.00…”
“En fejl – startede kl. 9.00…”

funny-pictures-the-dog-started-it1 imagesCAYRGLFF

No more money? No, just empty cardboard.

The English statement “The box was empty” was translated into Danish as “Kassen var tom”. While “Kasse” indeed means “a Box” in Danish, unfortunately the same word is also the word for a “Cash Register”. The Danish word for “Packaging” (Danish: “Emballage”) would be a more fortunate choice.

English ==> Danish
The box was empty ==>                 Kassen var tom
The cash register was empty ==>  Kassen var tom     (<== yes, it’s the same as above! 🙂 )
The packaging was empty ==>      Emballagen var tom