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 arbejdst√łj. 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. ūüôā

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
Arbejdst√łj ==> work clothes
Arbejdsst√łj ==> noise in the workplace

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

Flotte nylonstr√łmper ==> gorgeous nylon stocking
Flotte nylonstr√łmer ==> 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)

B√łrnepuder ==> pillows for children
B√łrnepudder ==> 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 kl√łr ==> a crab is itching
Krabbekl√łr ==> 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

F√łrstegangsydelse ==> First installment (of a loan payment)
F√łrstegangsnydelse ==> Enjoying the first time

Bl√¶re r√łv ==> bladder (and) ass [human parts]
Bl√¶rer√łv ==> 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 f√¶llespisning, where of course the magistrate believed that they were approving a f√¶llesspisning, as this newspaper clip shows: ūüôā

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 l√łsninger til denne ligning er tre

The number 2 is one of the solutions ==> Tallet 2 er en af l√łsningerne

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 cykell√łbet som nummer 2

You could not see his number on his bike racing shirt ==> Man kunne ikke se hans nummer p√• hans cykeltr√łje

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: r√¶kke instead:

English ==> Danish:

This equation has a number of solutions ==> Denne ligning har en r√¶kke l√łsninger

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. ūüôā

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… ūüôā

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 ‚Äúunderstood‚ÄĚ.
Like the simple: ‚ÄúMeet me at 5!‚ÄĚ. Of course we mean at 5 o‚Äôclock in English. But that‚Äôs a linguistic shortcut that the Danes do NOT take. If you say to a Dane ‚ÄúM√łd mig p√• Femmeren‚ÄĚ, he will think that you refer to a Caf√© or a physical place called ‚ÄúThe 5‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúFemmeren‚ÄĚ (‚ÄúThe Fiver‚ÄĚ). No, in Danish it must always be spelled out specifically that the 5 you refer to is a time, so ‚ÄúM√łd mig klokken 5‚ÄĚ is necessary. On the other hand, ‚ÄúKlokken 5‚ÄĚ suffices in Danish without any preposition to specify the time. But in English, for some reason, an ‚Äúat‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúwe appreciate your business‚ÄĚ, we DON‚ÄôT mean that we appreciate the way you‚Äôve decorated the interior of your shop, or the beautiful view that we get by looking at your storefront. No, we mean ‚Äúwe appreciate OUR business WITH YOU‚ÄĚ; 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. ‚Äďbut we also often use the same word ‚Äúbusiness‚ÄĚ.
Danish, of course, also has a number of words for various business entities, but only one word can be used exactly like ‚Äúbusiness‚ÄĚ to mean BOTH the transaction and the place of transaction. That word is ‚Äúforretning‚ÄĚ. Therefore:

English: We appreciate your business and apologize for any inconvenience ==> NOT: Vi v√¶rds√¶tter din virksomhed og beklager ulejligheden (Means: ‚ÄĚWe appreciate your business activity and apologize for any inconvenience‚ÄĚ)
BUT: Vi værdsætter din forretning og beklager ulejligheden.

In the same vein:

English: Close the deal! ==>
NOT: ‚ÄĚLuk handlen!‚ÄĚ, nor ‚ÄúLuk forretningen!‚ÄĚ (‚ÄúClose your shop!‚ÄĚ)
BUT: ‚ÄúF√• ordren!‚ÄĚ (‚ÄúGet the order‚ÄĚ) or ‚ÄúAfslut forretningen (‚ÄúFinish the deal‚ÄĚ)

In English you can ‚Äúconduct business‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúconduct a current‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúConduct yourself appropriately‚ÄĚ. Same word, different context. Not so in Danish:

English  ==> Danish:
To conduct business¬† ==> ‚ÄúAt lave forretning‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúat g√łre forretning‚ÄĚ (‚Äúto make or do business‚ÄĚ) or ‚Äúat f√łre forretning‚ÄĚ (this one means more to ‚Äúrun a (physical) store‚ÄĚ).
To conduct a current¬† ==>¬† ‚ÄúAt lede en str√łm‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúat f√łre en str√łm‚ÄĚ.
To conduct yourself appropriately¬† ==> At opf√łre sig passende.

And which way does that ‚Äúwith‚ÄĚ point again?

English  ==>  Danish:
Build trust with your customers ==>
NOT: Opbyg tillid til dine kunder (‚ÄúBuild more of your trust in your customers‚ÄĚ)
BUT: Opbyg tillid hos dine kunder (‚ÄúBuild more of your customers‚Äô trust in you‚ÄĚ)

The word ‚Äúwith‚ÄĚ has (at least) a double usage in English: ‚ÄúDo something together with someone‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúLeave something with someone‚ÄĚ. 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



Du kan f√• bank, kan du!…

Let’s talk banking, money. Always a touchy subject. Danish language may have it just right, as the word “bank” means both “getting beaten up” and “a banking institution”. Thus the title of this posting is actually saying “Do you want to get beaten up, do you!”, but it can ALSO mean “You are welcome to have a bank, yes you are!”. Unfortunately, I am not Rockefeller, so no banks shall be given away here. ūüôā

Danish  ==>  English
At f√• bank —> To get a beating
En bank —> ¬†A bank, a financial institution
Et bank —> ¬† ¬†A beating, a knock

As is often the case in Danish, when you go plural an ‘a’ becomes an “√¶” – and that would be that-, but not at all in this case:

Danish  ==>  English
B√¶nk¬†—>¬†A bench (to sit on), just one.
Banker¬†—> ¬†Banks (noun, plural of bank)
Banker —> Beats, hits (verb)
Flere¬†bank —> ¬†Several beatings
Flere banker —> Several banks
B√¶nke ¬†—> Benches

In English, banks normally deal with “Finances” while “the Economy” is the larger underlying nationwide climate. For some reason, the Danes decided to use these two words differently. And English, of course, offers its own challenges with “economic” and “economical” meaning two different things:

English ==>  Danish
Economy —> ¬†√ėkonomi
Personal finances —> Privat√łkonomi
Secretary of Treasury¬†—> Finansminister
Government Finances¬†—-> Statsfinanserne
Economic¬†trends —> Konjunkturer
Being economical–> At¬†v√¶re sparsommelig

In Danish, as in English, an “institute” is usually a dedicated place of learning found at an university, while an “institution” is something else. On the surface the two languages seem in agreement, However, over the years, Danish has used the word “institution” to refer¬†largely to places where you get “institutionalized” , such as orphanages or mental wards at hospitals. This may therefore explain why a bank, a “financial institution” is NOT an “institution” in modern day Danish, but an institute. Totally wrong, or…? After all, maybe you are not entirely crazy putting your money into a Danish bank, but as the old saying goes: “First you have the money and the bank has the experience. Then they invest it, and you gain¬†the experience and they have your money”… So yes, in Denmark a bank is a “money institute”, a place where, I guess, the lessons will be repeated until they are learned….

English ==>  Danish
An institution—> ¬†En institution
An institute¬†—>¬†Et institut
Financial¬†institution —> Et pengeinstitut (NOT “en pengeinstitution”).

Of course, once you give your money to the bank, you expect something in return, like say regularly deposited interest payment on your money. The bank will give you some “small print” paperwork to sign and like many translators you may get very confused between these two very similar Danish words:

Danish  ==>  English
Forrentningskrav —> “Interest requirements”, minimum rate of return on capital,

Speaking of one-letter differences: In English there is “Banking” and there is “Baking”. In a very strange way, the two were interchanged the other day, as I received a poorly translated Danish financial document to proofread. The English translation read: “You have bought 1000 ABC¬†securities for ¬†XY Danish kroner. The securities will be deposited into¬†your¬†custodial depot and XY kroner will be raised on your account on May 15,¬†2015″.

“Raised on your account”?¬†What kind of strange English was that?… And then it dawned on me, that the same Danish word “at h√¶ve” has¬†both a baking and a banking meaning. These two have nothing at all to do with each other, but Google Translate did not see the difference.¬†And also in Danish, you withdraw the money “on” the account and not “from” the account…:-)

Danish  ==>  English
At h√¶ve —-> To rise (baking)
At h√¶ve —-> To withdraw (banking)
Br√łddejen h√¶ver¬†—>¬†The bread dough rises (a baking term)
Vi h√¶ver p√• kontoen—>¬†We will withdraw from the account (a banking term)

In fact, Google Translate is blissfully unaware of the banking version of the word:

hævet på Google Transalte

And we won’t even talk here about translating the term “a money shot”…

Banking and investments¬†present various risks of monetary loss to the uninitiated. Besides monetary losses, we can now also add the danger of being lost in translation… ūüôā

The-Looney-Tunes-Show-Peel-of-Fortune-has-Daffy-strike-it-rich Money_Pink_Floyd maxresdefault

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 “Direkt√łrer”. So¬†“Direkt√łrer” 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 “direkt√łrer” 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
Direkt√łr –> 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
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 √•rsregnskab 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 fratr√¶den, 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 (direkt√łren) –> To terminate (the executive)
At sige (jobbet) op ¬†–> To quit (the job)
Fratr√¶den –> Resignation
Resignation –> Resignation, Despair

I dont always speak lingo
Working for a living

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 ūüôā 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… ūüôā

—————————————————————————————————– 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! ūüôā 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 h√•rdt
He hardly works –> Han arbejder¬†knapt nok

Puzzling and mysterious indeed… :-)¬†Work Hard2wurkkitteh

Sounds like the same word in both languages ‚ÄĒ 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 ‚ÄĒ but mean completely different things:

English –> Danish:

Husk –> Skal, avne
Remember–> Husk

Men –> M√¶nd
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! ūüôā ]

To stick to each other –> At kl√¶be sammen
Poke with a needle –> Stikke med en n√•l ¬†[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


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



Number 9, number 9,- , number 9.0, number 9,00…

35 years ago, almost on the date (November 22, 1968), the Beatles released “The White Album”. On it there is a song called “Revolution 9“. It’s a bit of a stretch to call it “a song” because all it is is a series of sound effects, mumbling, backwards tape-loops¬†and a monotonous male voice repeating the two words: “number 9, number 9, number 9”.

A classic ode to monotony? Definitely so. But when re-interpreted from the viewpoint of linguistics and localization, the song can be viewed as a hymn to the troubles posed on us by numbers. Let me count (albeit it’s not easy) some ways in which English and Danish differ on the matters of numbers….:

1. The comma versus period dilemma:

It is generally known that Europeans and Americans use commas and periods just the opposite of each other: In U.S. the commas separate the thousands and the periods separate the decimal fraction. For example the number “ten thousand and a half” would be written:

US/Australian/UK English: 10,000.5
European:                          10.000,5

There’s an interesting scientific paper describing the historical emergence of this difference between the continents. And Wikipedia has a lengthy article about the variety of ways in which¬†the decimal points¬†are applied¬†around the World.

2. The ordinal:

In Danish a period is used to denominate an ordinal number. This confuses most spellcheckers because in Danish the word following the ordinal number should NOT be capitalized:

English ==> Danish
1st ¬†–> 1.
2nd –> 2.
3rd base –> 3. base
4th birthday –> 4. f√łdselsdag

3. Thousand millions and above are different:

It has to do with disagreements between the continents regarding the prefix¬†“bi-“. Europe uses the “Long Scale”, where “bi-” is a multiple of a million. USA, on the other hand, uses the “Short Scale” , with “bi-” describing multiples of a thousand. This is described in great detail in¬†this Wikipedia article. The terrible thing for most financial or scientific writers is that the words “Billion” and “Trillion” appear exactly the same in both languages, but stand for quantities that are a factor of 1000 different!:

Number ==>                     English        ==> Danish
Million ¬† –> ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Million ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† –> Million
Thousand Millions –> ¬† ¬† ¬† Billion ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†–> Milliard
Million millions ¬†–> ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Trillion ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†–> Billion
Million million millions –> Quintillion ¬† ¬† ¬†–> Trillion

So, one piece of good news is that, when translated into the Danish way of counting, the US federal deficit is only in the billions of dollars, not trillions. ūüôā

4. The way we write dates:

Danish dates are separated by periods or dashes or slashes and the proper sequence is day.month.year . Also, the word “den” is used to specify a particular date (this one is really tough on any automated localization solutions). And month-names are NOT to be capitalized.

English ==> Danish
The 4th of July celebration ¬† –> 4. juli fejringen
July 4th, 1990¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†¬† –> den 4. juli 1990
07/04/1990 ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†–> 4.07.1990
from 4th to 15th of July¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†–> 4.-15. juli

5. The way we describe time:

Americans use colon as separator between hours and seconds, Danes prefer the period. Most look-up solution for multilingual web sites can figure that one out quite easily. But then it falls apart: Predominantly Danes use the 24-hour clock. Americans generally prefer the 12 hour clock with AM and PM. The AM and PM monikers used in US with 12-hour time can not be localized in a simple manner into Danish, as Danes indeed do use the 12-hour time in everyday speech, but with FOUR (not two) descriptors: ¬†morning, before noon, afternoon and evening. Also Danish alarms do NOT go off at “6” or “7”, but at “o’clock 6” or “o’clock 7” (Danish: “klokken 7”). In other words, while in English a number mentioned in context of time is understood to mean “time”, -it is not so in Danish. Also, interestingly enough, Danish does not have a precise word for “Noon”. We have “noon-time” (Middag, middagstid), but that’s more of a meal-time description. (And to make it even more confusing the big meal of the day, which we used to eat in the midle of the day has in modern time crept up towards the evening, so when you mention “middag” to a Dane, he will most likely think that you’re talking about an evening-type dinner meal around 6 PM).
If you want to meet a Dane at High Noon, that’s simply “klokken 12” or “pr√¶cist klokken 12”. If you want to eat with a Dane around noon-time, the meal is called “Frokost” (=Lunch), NOT “Middag” or “Middagsmad”. That’s what a Dane eats around 6-7 PM.

English ==> Danish
7:00 AM ¬†–> 7.00
7:00 AM ¬†–> Klokken 7 om morgenen
7:00 PM –> 19.00
7:00 PM –> Klokken 19
7:00 PM –> Klokken 7 om aftenen
11:00 AM –> Klokken 11 om formiddagen
3:00 PM –> Klokken 3 om eftermiddagen, klokken 15.
12:00 AM –> Midnat, klokken 24
12:00 PM –> klokken 12.
(Around) noon –> Middag
Dinner ¬† ¬† ¬†–> ¬† ¬†Middag, middagsm√•ltid
Lunch ¬† ¬†–> Frokost

6. The way we describe price:

I have yet to see a proper English-to-Danish localization that does this correctly. Which is odd, because in most cases the incentive to localize a US web site into Danish is to SELL something to the Danes, so, one would think, that some effort would be put into displaying the price correctly. But no… Usually it’s a¬†dead-on-arrival cause because the engineers responsible for website design (wrongly! :-)) assumed that prices are numbers, so therefore only allow numerics in their price-databases. However, they or their colleagues responsible for displaying the prices should be made aware of the fact that a correct Danish price involves the use a “dash”.

A price of 10 danish kroner and no √łre (an √łre is to the krone as a cent is to a dollar) should properly be shown as

10,-  kroner

NOT “10 kroner” and not “10,00 kroner”.

And if possible, an √łre amount should be in smaller font and superscript. See the weekly circulars below fresh from Denmark with this week’s special offers.

7. The way Danes do singles before the tens:

While fellow Scandinavian countries of Norway and Sweden have converted to pronounce a count of, say, “twenty five” as “twenty” and “five”, the Danes, like the Germans, are sticking with the reverse order: “twenty five” is “five and twenty” in Danish . Furthermore, if written with words, then the combined number is smooshed into one word: “Femogtyve” (=25). Once we get above 100 then the sequence for Danish pronunciation is “hundreds, ones, tens” (125 =ethundredefemogtyve). This may seem highly illogical for an American reader, but don’t haste to throw any rocks, because the American preference for ¬†“month-before-date” sequence for dates seems just as illogical to Danes… So there is some symmetry in trying to confuse each other ūüôā
This small but significant divergence in expressing numbers between the Scandinavian countries has produced a very funny Norwegian sketch (in English of course – because THAT we all understand ūüôā ) implying that the Danes most likely don’t even understand each other.

8. The way we kind of still use base 20 for counting:

To make matters worse between the Scandinavian countries the Danish names for multiples of ten (above 40) are not, like English, Norwegian or Swedish, based on multiples of 10, but on multiples of 20! US used to be counting in 20s as well. Remember Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address?: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation…” A “score” is 20.

English ==> Danish:
Ten –> Ti
Twenty –> Tyve
(Old English) Score (i.e. 20 pieces) –> Snes (Old Danish)
Thirty ¬† –> Tredive
Forty –> Fyrre
Fifty –> Halvtreds¬† (roughly: “Half of the third score”)
Sixty –> Tres (roughly: “three scores”)
Seventy –> Havfjerds
Eighty –> Firs
Ninety –> Halvfems

Another Norwegian sketch, in which a Norwegian short-wave radio operator refuses to save a Danish ship sending SOS – because he can’t grasp the Danish number system, totally nails the puzzlement of fellow Scandinavians when faced with both the reverse order of numbers and the strange Danish names for powers of ten:¬†Fleksnes makes fun of Danish Number system…. ūüôā

In conclusion: In general terms I have presented here ¬†8 ways in which the treatment of numbers in Danish differs from English. It could easily take us another “8 Days a Week” to cover the peculiar differences between Danish and English numbers in further detail. Which brings to mind another Beatles song: “Digit, digit, digit”…. Oops, it’s actually called “Dig it” ūüôā

Netto tilbudbeatlesrevolution9Beatles DigItKvickly reklame

eight days a week sheet music

Danish: N√•r skibet er i fart, s√• 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