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



You can get “get”, if you really try…

The strange and many meanings of the word “get”: Watching a movie on TV the other night, the plot involved someone saying something very true to someone who was not in the mood to listen to it, so the words  “get out!” got yelled out on the screen. Then some building fire ensued and this time what was uttered was “get Fluffy (the dog) and get out!!”. Nothing strange there, one would think. Unfortunately, with the linguistic mind turned on, rather than paying attention to the unfolding drama on the flickering screen, what I noticed was the peculiarity of the English language, as illustrated by these common “get <something>!” exuberances. “Get  out” seems to make no sense, when compared to “get Fluffy”. You “get” Fluffy the dog by catching the dog, -but how do you “get” or catch an “out”??… In the TV-drama, I think the disgruntled husband was a suspect regarding starting the fire that endangered Fluffy, but I really can’t tell you much more than that 🙂 The English word “Get” is generally understood to mean “acquire” or “bring”, especially when followed by a noun, like in

get a hammer
get Fluffy
get some money

Since the implied motion of the get-events above is towards me, so to speak (by getting the hammer, Fluffy or money I bring them towards me), it struck me as odd that “get out!” then means exactly the opposite, getting away from something or someone. I didn’t quite get it… Ha ha. The explanation is that “get” has this other very peculiar meaning or usage in English when followed by a adverb or an adjective: then it means “bring yourself into the state of being <adverb or adjective>: Very clever, that three letters G, E and T can replace all that!:

Get wealthy => Bring yourself into the state of being wealthy
Get happy ==> Bring yourself into the state of being happy
Get going ==> Bring yourself into the state of being in motion
Get out   ==> Bring yourself into the state of being OUT(side)

-and just when it all starts making logical sense, no language would be a human language if there weren’t a few exceptions*: *Actually there are many, many more. See Post Scriptum below.

Get lucky ==> Go have sex! Unless you’re on your way to Las Vegas, then indeed “bring yourself into the state of being lucky”
Get off ==> Slang: Finish having sex, orgasm.
Get it ==>    Understand
Get with it ==> Follow a trend
Get-go   ==> From the beginning
Get down  ==> In modern English: Get happy. Which strangely enough is the exact opposite of being down (and depressed).

And picking from the movie idea that inspired this post, if James Bond chased a villain named Out, then “Get Out” would mean “Bring her/him here”, while “Get out” (without the capitalization) would send Mr. Bond in the opposite direction… I can’t wait to see this idea brought out in the next Bond movie (all right reserved)… James Bond might have a thoughtful moment pondering: “Which Out, did Q mean?? Do I go right or go left now? Do I go in or do I go out?”… Ah, forGET it… 🙂

—————————————————————————————————– Post Scriptum (August 7, 2014): According to The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word “get”, it seems that I only scratched the surface in my blog regarding the multiple uses and varied meanings of “get”. There must be at least 30 more different meanings of “get”… Interestingly, from the Oxford Dictionary::

Usage of get
The verb get is in the top five of the most common verbs in the English language. Nevertheless, there is still a feeling that almost any use containing get is somewhat informal. No general informal label has been applied to this dictionary entry, but in formal writing it is worth bearing this reservation in mind.

Origins of get
Origins of the word: “Middle English: from Old Norse geta ‘obtain, beget, guess’; related to Old English gietan (in begietan ‘beget’, forgietan ‘forget’), from an Indo-European root shared by Latin praeda ‘booty, prey’, praehendere ‘get hold of, seize’, and Greek khandanein ‘hold, contain, be able’. Jimmy Cliff english-getout you-got-99-on-test-why-you-not-get-100-get-out Slade Get with it AnimalsWeGotta SATISFACTION

Is it hard to figure out what goes where and which does what? Well, it can be hard or hardly…

Take the simple word “Take”: The same English word is both a noun (“a take“, referring to recording a movie scene) and it is also a verb (“to take”). Simultaneously, the cousin-word “taken” doubles as both past tense of the verb, and an adjective, AND an adverb. Wow, English can be so concise! 🙂 The tendency of the English language to often use the same exact word for all grammatical variations can make it some times hard to understand the English at hand, not to mention the challenges of localizing to a different language. On one hand: you can have something absolutely correct because in English the noun, the verb, the adjective or the adverb are often the very same word. On the other hand: it can be absolutely wrong: the sameness of two English words can make the word(s) slip through the localization/translation machinery and appear at the other end in entirely wrong shape for the target language.


A web site button labelled “Pay” —> This is an order to pay for merchandise, which in Danish would have the correct translation: “Betal”. Database-based “translation systems” that hold single words and sentences of a web site in different languages can some times be too simplistic in their approach… So, next time these systems encounter the word “Pay” they often would go: “Aha! “Pay”, we’ve seen that before, we have a match, let’s insert the Danish word “Betal” then”. And that would be incorrect.
While English uses the same word in a request to pay and in a sentence about payments, in Danish they would be two words with different endings:

English ==> Danish
To pay –> At betale
Would you like to pay? –> Vil du gerne betale? (loses prefix “at”)
Please pay! –> Betal venligst! (loses -e at the end)

Danish generally has two forms of a verb: the passive one ends with an -e and in the active version the ending -e is omitted. Things get much worse for Slavic languages where you can have up to 7 different endings of a verb depending on inflection.

And just when one thinks one has figured it out, one hasn’t:

The English adjective “hard” has two different adverbs, -which mean exactly the opposite of each other!

English ==> Danish
He works hard –> Han arbejder hårdt
He hardly works –> Han arbejder knapt nok

Puzzling and mysterious indeed… :-) Work Hard2wurkkitteh

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




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 hår–> 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 hår 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

Difference between a “reason of”, a “reason for” and “reason” requires some reason

The English sentence “5 reasons to pay with PayPal” was translated as “5 årsager til at betale med PayPal”. This is wrong in an interesting way: The two English nouns “reason” and “cause” will probably appear in most English synonym dictionaries side-by-side as synonyms. Yet, they are subtly different and the difference is not easily seen in the stand-alone word, but in the preposition that follows.

In English there can be a “cause of” or a “cause for”. In Danish we have two different words for that:

A reason FOR something to happen, or a cause FOR something happening (or shortened: A reason TO do something) is in Danish “en grund”. This is, loosely speaking, an answer to “WHY (something is happening)”.

However, a cause OF something happening is in Danish “en årsag”. Again, loosely speaking, this is “WHAT (has caused the event)”. Interestingly, “cause’s” English synonym “reason” is rarely used with the preposition OF.

a cause of  ==> en årsag
a cause for, reason for, reason to ==> en grund

The correct translation of the English sentence “5 reasons to pay with PayPal” is therefore “5 grunde til at betale med PayPal”.

There’s another interesting quirk with “reason”:

“Reason” without an “a” in front (because it’s not countable) is something else than “A Reason”. This “Reason” is synonymous with “Wisdom”:

Reason (noun, no plural) ==> Fornuft (noun, no plural)

It’s an interesting observation for me, and for machines trying to translate, that some words do NOT get an  ‘a’ or a “the” in front and that that can make such a difference in meaning…

To complete this, let’s look at the same-sounding verbs:

To reason ==> at argumentere, at ræsonnere, at fornuftiggøre, at tænke
To cause ==> at forårsage, at forvolde, at skyldes

The meaning of life?… no deal. But a great deal of Saxons and Normans. Deal with it.

“Are you looking for a great deal?”, (i.e. “Are you looking for a bargain”), was translated as “Leder du efter en hel del?” which means “are you looking for a lot (of things)?”, which turns a simple sentence about a possible bargain to an almost profound-sounding quest for the meaning of a life.  [Should have been translated as: Leder du efter et godt tilbud?].
In this context it is interesting how “deal” in English can both mean “an amount” and “a bargain” leaving “a great deal” utterly ambigous, unless put in context. I have a theory about how this came about!
Most of us have seen Robin Hood in one incarnation or another on a TV or a movie screen. What is not clear from pretty much all adaption of the tale is that the Normans and the Saxons, the two parties to the pivotal 13th century conflict at the center of Robin Hood’s saga, did NOT both speak the same language, English, as the movies will have us believe. The conquering Normans, in fact, spoke French!
England remained a bi-lingual place for centuries thereafter with the commoners speaking Anglo-Saxon and the ruling classes Norman-French. The great impact of this, which we still carry with us in English to this day, is that in legal English we have the tradition of carrying both the Saxon and and the Norman words. Things like “Cease and desist”, “Null and void”, “Devise and bequeath”, “Last will and testament” are actually nothing else than repetitions of the same meaning, two synonyms, with two different words: one Saxon word (closest to German today), and one Norman word (closest to French today).
“And how does this relate to the two meanings of  the word “deal”, then?”, you might ask. Well, here’s my theory: another effect of the Saxon-Norman duality is that two entirely different-meaning, but similar-sounding, words from the two origins have become the same word (with dual meanings) in modern English. I think that “deal”, when meaning “amount, part”, is the English-spelled version of the modern German word “Teil”, meaning “Part, divide”. This meaning of “Deal” is also present in the verb “to deal” when it refers to cards in  a poker game. On the other hand, “deal”, when it means “trade, commerce”, comes from the French “commerce de détail”, which also has been twisted into “retail” in English. This meaning of deal is present in the verb “to deal (with it)” when it refers to a setback in life, i.e. try to make commerce out of something bad.
Now, wasn’t that interesting? Suddenly lingustics is like historical detective work…. 🙂