Express yourself

Expressions. We have them in every language, ones that are centuries old, new trends, cultural references, the lists are endless. But expressions in my mind are the ultimate goal towards mastery of a language. Expressions are the garnish to a meal, in fact they are more than that, they are the salt and pepper. They add flavour and depth. Without them language is bland.

When it comes to Norwegian expressions I am still a beginner – there is no mastery here. I am still identifying which ones are the same in both English and Norwegian, for example, “new blood” and “I take my hat off to you”. I also find those that are not the same but have the same meaning, for example, in English you “can’t have your cake and eat it” whilst in Norwegian you “can’t have (it) in a bag and in a rucksack”. There are also those that just do not translate at all and I am not sure have an equivalent, like “frisk som en fisk” – healthy like a fish -it just doesn’t have the same impact. 

I spend a great deal of time talking about expressions. I am forever having conversations about what they mean, where they come from, trying to find the English equivalent. To be honest, I spend a lot of time these days talking about language in general. It has become my icebreaker with new people, my version of weather chat. It fills the awkward silences and makes for great office lunch time chat. People love to tell me all about Norwegian expressions and I entertain it, I even enjoy it. I confess. I am a word nerd.

It is not just moving to Norway that has sparked my word nerdiness. I have always loved words. It is just that this trilingual gig of mine is giving my love fuel. I have language discovery moments that blow my mind. Like when I first heard the Norwegian word for space, as in outer space. It is verdensrommet. Literally translated to mean “the world’s room”. Pause and re-read. Let the greatness of that translation sink in…ahhhh! Magic. Brilliant language discovery moments like this make learning a new language fun and make me smile from the inside out.

Of all my language discovery moments in the journey to mastery, the ones I enjoy most are when English words are integrated into the Norwegian language, as is. Just add a Norwegian accent and bob’s your uncle. Jeans are jeans, if something is crazy in English it is crazy in Norwegian too. I opened the newspaper one day and saw the title ikke bare bullshit – not just bullshit. Why try find the appropriate word in Norwegian when the English one says exactly what you mean? Scandis have exceptional English skills so there is very little risk of misunderstanding. I make a mental note every time this happens. One less word/expression for me to learn, one step closer to mastery.


“Of all my language discovery moments, the best are when English words are integrated into the Norwegian language, as is.”

Expression mastery in Norwegian is still a distant goal for me. I am currently still riding the “yes I have been here a year” wave. This means, despite my mistakes, I can still impress people because I haven’t been here that long. I know this wave is soon to wane though. The months are racking up. I am now in the process of trying to wean myself off expecting people to be impressed with my language skills. I have to admit it’s not easy. I have become addicted.

7 thoughts on “Express yourself

  1. Paul says:

    I wouldn’t worry about that wave waning just yet, I’ve been here nearly 4 years and still get “wow, you speak Norwegian really well” 🙂

    They do have some crazy expressions though, “skjegget i postkassen” and “bjørnetjeneste” are two of my favourites


      • Paul says:

        Beard in a postbox is when you hope to come out of a situation or deal with a good result, but instead have the worst possible outcome. Kind of like “egg on your face” or bewildered

        Bear-service, is when someone tries to do something nice for you, but it really hinders/injures you in some way instead. It comes from an old fable where a bear crushed his master’s head with a rock, to kill a fly on his nose!

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