International Student Blog

Norwegianisms 3, this time it’s personal

As it is one of my favorite things to mull over some new (to me) Norwegian idioms, slang, or terms. I thought as the Semester wraps up it would be a great moment to savor a few… so here’s my current top 3 new favorite Norwegian-isms (of the moment):


1. Smørøyet

According to google translate this literally means, “Lubricate eye” Somehow, I feel that google translate has failed me again. As you may know from your grocery shopping, Smør is butter. So, Smørøyet may also be translated as “the butter eye” – please correct me if I’m wrong by commenting below!

I first heard this term on an afternoon hike (that was ultimately in the dark, being an afternoon in a Norwegian winter) with a friend who casually started a conversation with, “So you know the Smørøye…” of course, I had to stop her immediately for a definition, as the the truth was I did not know the Smørøye.  She therefore had to inform me it refers literally to the pat of butter in porridge (she thinks butter in porridge is disgusting, but she’s from Germany originally so she’s biased). And, figuratively, it describes being in the middle of the ‘best’ most savory bits of something. Or as she says, “being in a luxurious place – in the middle of the butter”




Smørøye even has its own Wikipedia entry, this says (in Norsk) that “A Smørøye is a pat of butter placed in the middle of a dish, usually a hot porridge, like rice porridge,” and “Midt i smørøyet” or ‘smack in the middle’ has a positive connotation and refers to being in the city where events take place.

My Norwegian pal tells me that it is not specific to the middle of the city, but that is merely an example – it is perhaps better thought of as ‘the center of the action’ or ‘the middle of things’ and he’s only ever heard it have a positive connotation.


2. Naking

Okay, this may not be a purely Norwegian term, but it sounds like Norway was the place of origin for a very specific action to be associated with the word.

More generally, naking means “naked” or the “act of being nude” (thank you, urban dictionary). However, more specific to Norway, a group of three friends, Lydia Buckler, Olivia Edington, and Ingvild Marstein Olsen started a trend in 2014 of taking topless photos (from behind) with scenic backgrounds. They found the act extremely liberating. It all began with one photo on a hike in Norway – and the trend became known as the ‘Topless Tour’. I have come to think of this practice of climbing to the top of a mountain, stripping off some (or a lot) of clothes, and posing for a photo, as very common in Norway. That day on our hike, my friend referred to it as ‘naking’. Is that genuinely the term for it that Norwegians would use? Good question (I will say #naking brings up a lot of topless in nature photos on Instagram… and much more). But if it is not, perhaps it should be!




And, of course this blog would not be complete without bringing up a suggestion a past commentor made for another Norwegian idiom of note:

3. Ta deg en bolle

“Ta deg en bolle”, according to google translate, literally means, “Take a bun”. My Norwegian friend tells me this is an expression of disbelief or disdain for something the other person said. I have looked around online and I’ve found some descriptions that indicate a sense of telling someone to ‘slow their roll’ so to speak, because they’re going to make a mistake – or for conversations that are subjective, such as which band is the best you could tell someone to “ta deg en bolle” if you are about to disagree with them. 



According to Urban dictionary, it might be used in chats and forums when someone is too intense.

Could this be similar to the infamous 80s phrase, ‘take a chill pill’? My Norwegian friend says no. No, it’s more like incredulous disagreement. Maybe you can suggest a better English equivalent? Comment below!

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