Thursday, June 16, 2011

Taler du dansk?

June 17, 2011
(you may want to sit down before you read this next shocking statement!)

The Danish language has several words that I have discovered in the last 3 years that make PERFECT SENSE to me. They either are DIRECT translations from the English word (Thank you, Danish Language Creators!) or they are words that COMPLETELY fit the thing they represent (and actually make more sense than their English counterpart!)

Here are a few of the direct translations, just to show you how simple DANISH COULD HAVE BEEN had this trend continued throughout....

hjemme (home) + arbejde (work) = hjemmearbejde (homework)
spise (eat) + bord (table) = spisebord (eating table/ dining table)
hår (hair) + tørrer (drying) = hårtørrer (hair dryer)
dyr (animal) + læge (doctor) = dyrlæge (animal doctor /vet) 

(I feel a bit like a Sesame Street episode!) 

And now for the words that show the AWESOME side of the Danish language....the side that could teach English a thing or two:

pande (forehead) + hår (hair) = pandehår (forehead-hair---AKA "bangs")
grund (ground) + lov (law) =  Grundlov (The Ground Law--AKA "Constitution") 
følelse (feeling) + løs (less) = følelsesløs (feelingless--AKA "numb")
moder (mother) + mælk (milk) = modermælk (Mother's milk--AKA "breast milk")
u (un) + skyldig (guilty) = uskyldig (unguilty---AKA "innocent")

See, Danish Language Creators, you were on a roll! Why couldn't you just stick with either (or both) of those trends above??!! If so, then I would not have ANY dislikes in this category other than the fact that my mouth cannot quite make all the sounds in Danish, but that is my problem, not yours.

But no... you had to mix it up!
And the simplest place to see how MESSED UP some of the phrases and translations are in Danish are to turn to the world of entertainment since Danish TV is Filled with American television (in English-thank god!) These ODDITIES exist throughout the language, but here a few of the TV-related HEAD SCRATCHERS:

1. Grey's Anatomy-- ought to be "Greys Anatomi", but NOPE! It is called "Greys Hvide Verden" (Grey's White World)
2. Just Shoot Me-- ought to be "Lige Skyld Mig", but it is called "Med på Moden" (In fashion) 
3. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air--ought to be "Den Friske Prins af Bel-Air", but it is called "Rap Fyr i L.A." (Rap Guy in L.A.)
4. Home Improvement--ought to be "Hjem Forbedrelse " , but it is called "Ti Tommelfingre"  (Ten Thumbs)
5. Step by Step- ought to be "Trin af Trin", but it is called "Kaos i Familien" (Chaos in the Family)

but then other shows keep their American names:
Two and a Half Men
Ugly Betty
How I Met Your Mother
Desperate Housewives
Brothers and Sisters.

I am trying to figure out the system here, but I honestly don't think there is one!


Anonymous said...

Your translations are so cute but some things cannot be translated directly.

2.Just Shoot me = BARE SKYD Mig (skyld = blame)
3.Fresh Prince of Bel-Air = maybe: Den frække prins fra Bel-Air, or: Bel-Airs frække prins
4.Home improvement = Hjem Forbedring
5.Step by step = Trin FOR Trin

I like the name "Ti tommelfingre" :)

Aubrey said...

I've always thought the same things with names such at Peter Plys...AKA winnie the pooh, or Anders And...Donald Duck. Why change the name when that is the name! But I'm sure we do the same.

Holmes said...

"Rap Guy in L.A" ROFLMAO

We are literally sitting here about to shit ourselves laughing.

Kjartan said...

In general I am totally with you on terrible danish translations of movie and TV-show titles. The worst is when they give the show a different title IN ENGLISH (?!?) Presumably because english sounds cooler but the original title was to difficult. Or something.

But "Rap fyr i L.A." is actually not bad. "Rap" in danish can mean something like "snazzy", "smart" or "fast" so there's a double meaning there. Also the literal translation of "Fresh" ("Frisk") does not at all carry the meaning of slightly "smart-ass" like it does in english. In danish it just means fresh like in fresh produce or refreshed like the way you feel after a good nights sleep.

Anonymous said...

For the longest time, I didn't get why they picked Anders And. But then I see they wanted an alliteration. Donald And isn't so catchy and it's marketed at kids so they want a Danish name.

Garkbit said...

My favourite trap for the unwary in the Danish language is "skrupelløs" which translates as "unscrupulous".

One of the biggest problems communicating with Danes - either in English or by trying to guess the Danish word for something - is their rather pigheaded determination to avoid words of classical origin, which is why you get so many words like "dyrlæge" instead of veterinary surgeon or "folkemord" instead of "genocide". As you say it does give Danish a certain charming directness - the Danes have no word for circumlocution. (Well actually the dictionary suggests "omskrivning" or the delightful "omsvøb".)

Kjartan said...

For: "Rather pigheaded determination to avoid words of classical origin": read "History of never having been part of the Roman Empire". Many, many of those words are entirely parallel in german: "Dyrlæge" = "Tierarzt" (Tier=animal, arzt=doctor in german). "Folkemord"="Völkermord" etc.) so ascribing them to a particular danish pigheadedness seems somewhat harsh.

Skogkjerring said...

Your observations are similar to what I have experienced in Norway also and I have always wondered why they couldn´t call Goofy from Mickey Mouse Goofy? He is Langbein (long legs) in Norwegian...oh I could go on, but you made some excellent examples and they have translated some of the same TVshows with weird names here also...Ti Tommelfinger is shown here also...hahaha..

I don´t think we are suppose to figure out the language completely, we would have to have been born here to not question it...

Anonymous said...

Personally, I love Denmark and can't find one thing to complain about. But if forced I would say it is that it is too perfect, the people are too warm and friendly and they speak too perfect English. It means I never get to practice my Danish. Hey Danes! Listen up! Give us a chance! We just want to learn your wonderful and mysterious language! I hope somebody hears me because I am desperate to get it right, but each time I try a wonderful Dane speaks perfect English! I don't know how to tell them without being rude, but somedays I feel like crying because I know I am NOWHERE near as good to Danish as I should be now after 18 months of trying every single day. I am thinking of hiring a tutor to have one on one individual classes.


Unknown said...

Hahaha, the TV show translations were so funny! I find that sometimes in movie titles too. For example, Something Borrowed (the new Kate Hudson, Ginnifer Goodwin movie) is called Skal, Skal ikke in Danish. It never ceases to amuse me. Do you get the show Step by Step here? I loved that show when I was younger! It was on every Friday night for TGIF, and my sisters and friends used to have friday night sleep overs and watch all those teenage TV shows. Those were the days!