Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Danish confusion

Dear Creators of the Danish Language,

First of all I would like to say thank you for allowing me to really stretch my knowledge base as I worked diligently to learn your fine language. It has really put my skill set to the test and reminded me that you are never too old to learn.

However, I do have a concern that I need to voice to you.
But first, I have to ask.... when you were creating the Danish language, was there a limit on how many words you could make? Like you had a word limit that you could not cross or else you might be fined something like 180%??  I ask because in case you have not stopped to think about it, you have MANY words that have more than one meaning. 

Or maybe you did not have a word limit, but instead you are not exactly a creative person and it would have taken way too much extra to make up unique words for everything??

Regardless what your reasons were for using the same words for very different things, I have to say that this has the potential to cause a great deal of trouble (and perhaps embarrassment) for all of the non-Danish folks learning to speak Danish.

For example, one of the first lessons I learned about Danish was the 2 uses for "tog"...one means the past tense version of "take" and the other means "train". Ok, not so bad...one is a verb and one is a noun. I think I can keep those straight.

I also know that "blomme" can mean a PLUM , but it can also mean an egg yolk; and again, I think this is ok because I think there would be enough clues in the sentence so I know if we are talking about fruit or something runny and yellow.

If I mix up blomme or tog, I will recover. I will not blush and I will not elicit laughter from those in the room. However, there are some of your combos that have really freaked me out!

In fact, I only knew of one of those AWFUL COMBOS until this weekend when I was watching Big Bang Theory and as usual, I was reading the subtitles (på dansk) because it helps me to learn different words and phrases as I hear the show in English, but read it in Danish. This time there was a joke about a guy's testicles... (yeah, you see where this is going...)

and I turned to my husband and said, "They made a mistake on the Danish translation for that joke! It said something about his "pung"...but pung means wallet!"

He grinned and replied, "yeah, about that... pung is wallet, but it is also..... umm, well, how should I say... scrotum."

So if I say to Mads, "Skat, har du din pung med?", I think I am asking him if he has brought his wallet with him, but someone could think I was asking him if he had his scrotum with him?!? OMG....

So I added this to my list of "words to AVOID at all costs"! It is right under "KISS" because in Danish if you say the word for "Kiss" with just a little different emphasis than you intended, it means a slang word for vagina. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

Well, seeing that I was already slightly traumatized, my husband decided to add fuel to the vocabulary fire. "Honey, you also need to be aware of taske." (taske= purse) I decided to ask why and learned that when a guy says (in Danish), "Man, that lady has a nice 'taske'" he is NOT talking about her handbag... he is talking about her RACK!  YES, I AM SERIOUS.

But wait, there was more!
You know those nice lovely Danish rolls that we get from the bakery? You know, the ones called "bolle"... yeah, bolle also means to HAVE SEX.
So if I say to my husband, "how about some bolle this afternoon?" chances are that he will not show up with some warm buns and butter...

So again, I do thank you for the chance to learn your lovely language, but WHY have you made this so difficult? Did you make these word combos to always keep foreigners at a disadvantage?? So that we could "integrate" into Danish society by causing the Danes to crack up laughing at us??
Or are you just that UNCREATIVE?! 

I need to know.

Sincerely/Med venlig hilsen,
Kelli Nørgaard 


Unknown said...

Though I can't actually answer this letter for you, I can also be terrified about issues like this in Norwegian, as I am already often nervous/anxiety-ridden about whether I'm speaking properly.
Also, using subtitles to learn is awesome. I also partake.


Tina M Cella said...

ROFL - seriously :-D
Though I understand why you're confused

Anonymous said...

LOL! Pung means scrotum in Swedish too. However, kiss means pee and puss means kiss... And fart, as has already been noted, means speed.

May said...

Aehmmm pardon my Danish, but...

...don't mix up knap, knop and knep or knippe, knappe and kneppe. ;)

Not to mention one of my favourite songs where part of the lyrics go "Kun med sagte pik på rude, melder sig den små musvit.", which isn't as dirty as it sounds like.

Aaaand be weary if a flirty guy asks if you'd like some coffee and cake.

Annarella said...

I love the Danish word FYR. It means guy, shoot, pine, boiler, radio beacon, lay off, lighthouse, castrated male cat and probably more. :-)

Yea, we have lots of words in Danish with more than one meaning but it isn't a problem for us, like it isn't a problem for you in English. Oh, or is it? Think about the meanings of these newspaper headlines:

Crack found in man's buttocks

Tiger Woods plays with own balls, Nike Says

President wins budget; more lies ahead

Local high school dropouts cut in half

Man struck by lightning faces battery charge

New study of obesity looks for larger test group

Miners refuse to work after death

Stolen painting found by tree

Grandmother of eight makes a hole in one

Police begin campaign to run down Jaywalkers

Drunks get nine months in violin case

Eastern head seeks arms

Prostitutes appeal to religious Leader

HOLMES said...

This is really no different than papá meaning father but papa meaning potato; anos meaning anus but años meaning years, and tenía being one of the past tenses of "to have" but tenia meaning tapeworm in Spanish... accents and pronunciation really F everything up.

Kisses! (*giggle*)

Archaeogoddess said...

Then there's the old "gift" problem.

Jeg er gift. = I am married.
Jeg har gift. = I have been poisoned.

I do not try to tell people that I have been married for two years because if I grab the wrong verb I may tell them that I've been poisoned for two years.

I also say "Oh, Lord" when something is mildly off-putting. But it sounds an awful lot like "oh, lort" which is of course "oh shit." Here I am trying to be polite and gentile in my swearing and I might as well be using my more colorful vocabulary!

Pete said...

No that you have talked about both "pung" og "tasker", maybe you should also ask your husband about the two different meanings of "skede". It fits right in with the subject.

But I guess the English language is no different in this regard. "Rack" as you mentioned has different meanings in English too.

Nina Ø said...

I remembered this post when I ran across a link today that said:
"Click here if you know the difference between there, their and they're". ;-)

Kristen said...

I laughed so hard when I read this! Those are mistakes I will probably wind up making....

Alex said...

Hahahaha! I LOVE words like these. I never ever forget them. Like avocat in french meaning both avocado and lawyer. Or cul. I'll never say cul-de-sac the same way again.