To have and have not. What’s that got to do with a garden?

Of course Danish and English language share similar roots, not the least because around the year 500 the British Isles were occupied by the Vikings. The fact that, since then, the two languages have taken different paths, means that some times words seem the same or similar in both languages and yet the meanings are different.
I am often reminded of this when I see a mention of “Tivoli Garden” in Copenhagen. When Danes use the word “Garden” it does not mean the same as in English. In Danish “Tivoli Garden” is the marching band of guards  which entertains the park guests. “Tivoli Garden” is called in Danish “Tivoli Haven”.

Here’s some quirky words that are the same yet different in the two languages:


at hæve ==> to withdraw, to raise
at have ==> to have
en have ==> a garden
garden ==> the guard squadron
en garder ==> a (single) guard
en gartner ==> a gardener
“en garde!”==> French. Used to warn a fencer to assume the preparatory position for a match.

To withdraw and to lift. In Danish it’s the same word

In an earlier posting I wrote about how the verb “Charge” in English is synonymous with “adding to” when we are talking about a car battery, but means the opposite, “taking from”, when we are talking about a credit card. Danish has its own quirky word with two similarly polar opposite meanings, depending on context. The word is “at hæve”.

When talking about a bank account, “hæve” means “to withdraw”:

“I withdrew $200 from my checking account” ==> “Jeg hævede 200 USD fra min checkkonto”.

But when talking about a limit or limitation, “hæve” means “to raise” or “to lift”:

“We must raise the minimum wage by $2/hour” ==> “Vi bør hæve minimumslønnen med 2 USD per time”

So, then of course it gets very tricky if the English sentence at hand involves BOTH a bank account and a limitation:

“Your account has a negative balance. Raise your account balance (to zero or any positive amount)” . If translated as “Din konto har en negativ saldo. Hæv din saldo (til nul eller et positivt beløb)” it could be misunderstood in Danish (particularly without the words in parenthesis) as leading to the illogical conclusion that you should withdraw more money from your account, which is already overdrawn.

Probably better to translate into Danish with one of the unambigous synonyms for “increase:” (“øg” or “løft”), such as: ” Din konto har en negativ saldo. Øg din saldo (til nul eller et positivt beløb)”.

And this idea of “withdrawing money to raise money” reminds me of the following bar trick (it helps if some alcohol has been consumed):
“Hey, may I borrow two dollars from you?”, “Sure!”, “Great, but I only need one right now. I may need the second one later, OK?”, “OK”
Little later…
“Hey can I have the dollar back that I lent you?”, “What are you talking about?”, “The dollar that you borrowed from me…”, “Oh that one… Listen, remember I wanted to borrow TWO dollars from you?”, “Yeah…”, “So, you only gave me one, so I owe you one, and you still owe me one, right?”, “Yeah, I guess…, “So, if I owe you one and you owe me one, we are even, right?!” , “I guess…”, “Now buy me a drink!…” 🙂

Google Translate for Danish <-> English has an Easter Egg

An “Easter Egg” in the digital world is a quirky, hidden behavior hidden inside an application or a website, which can be brought to life when some secret  key sequence or mouse movement is entered. The clever programmers at Google have created so many of them that a whole WikiPedia page is dedicated to them. I found one in Google Translate. Chosing the English-Danish translation one gets:  swipe a credit card ==> knalde et kreditkort. And even the reverse works too (knalde et kreditkort ==> Swipe a credit card). The problem is that “knalde” has absolutely nothing to do with swiping in Danish. It means something like “smash” and is more generally used as the common description of what people do when they make children…