International Student Blog

Norwegianisms Part II: Full Pupp!

My recent post, “The year the mountains were so steep” and other Norwegianisms, inspired one of my colleagues at UiB, Kjartan, to volunteer a number of other Norwegian idioms! I checked in with my dear Norwegian buddy in order to get a broader context for what these mean and when one might use them and I’m excited to share them with you! So without further ado, 7 more Norwegianisms (6 thanks to Kjartan, one thanks to my pal)!

1) Full pupp

Kjartan’s (literal) translation: Full boob.

My friend’s practical version: “Full speed”. Give it all you’ve got. Max intensity.

I wonder if this expression relates in some capacity to the English “fult tilt” or, since apparently “pupp” refers to breasts (“full pupp” can mean “full tit”), maybe “balls out” or “balls to the wall” (*edit: the first one has come to refer to testicles, although neither originally did – as a commentor helpfully pointed out below) would be more appropriate. If you’re not familiar, these are rather extreme (in some circles and contexts it would be considered extremely rude) versions of “maximum intensity”.




2)   Helt på viddene

Kjartan’s (literal) translation: totally out in the open country.

My friend’s take: “Completely lost”. The person in question has no idea what they’re talking about or doing.

My thought is that this is similar to the English expression, “out to lunch”, “out of it“, or “out in left field” (although these may be ‘old person’ English colloquialisms).




3)   Ta en spansk en

Kjartan’s (literal) translation: take a Spanish one.

My friend’s take: “Take a shortcut”. Potentially a shortcut that includes not following rules. He gave the example of driving your car through a red light when nobody’s watching: if you do that, you’re “taking a Spanish one”.

I’m trying to think of a good equivalent of this one… what’s coming to me at the moment is only my Dad’s favorite: “the Chicago stop”, this one, however really specifically refers to rolling through stop signs in a car (you look both ways, of course, you just keep going ’cause nobodies there).  But perhaps a more broad English language colloquialism would be “cutting corners”.




As is true in many languages, certain phrases have fascinating origin stories. It sounds to me like “taking a Spanish one” is used somewhat casually in Norway today, however, Kjartan provided an article that tells a more explicit story about the origins of ‘taking a Spanish one’, if you want the lurid details, get your translator ready and click here. And, sorry to any Spanish folks, I do not in any way mean to equate you with rule-breaking and sex-acts.


4)   Å gå over bekken etter vann

Kjartan’s (literal) translation: walk over the stream to get water.

My friend’s take: Doing something in a more impractical or complicated way than necessary. He gave the example of the “good old story of the US vs Russian solution to zero gravity pens”. You know, that one. Oh? You don’t? Well, neither did I – so I looked it up. Apparently, there is a common urban legend that indicated that NASA (America’s space program) invested heaps of time and money into creating an anti-gravity space pen, and Russians just used pencils (the “urban legend” part of this is that NASA spent millions… apparently the private sector spent millions instead).

I am having trouble thinking of the perfect American equivalent phrase, but certainly trying to herd cats and beating your head against the wall denote a level of difficulty, if not the ironic fruitlessness of crossing a stream to get water. Apparently there is a British idiom, “to carry coal to Newcastle”, that denotes the same flavor of haplessness as the Norwegian “walk over the stream to get water”, this is because Newcastle was historically a major coal exporter.



5)   Sy puter under armene på noen

Kjartan’s (literal) translation: To sew pillows under someone’s arms.

My friend’s take: To spoil someone, to shield them from the realities of the world. He mentions that the implication that this shielding is a disservice (“bjørnetjeneste” in Norwegian) as the shielded person will not be ready for the real world.

In English, there is a similar phrase, “to wrap in cotton wool” but I really don’t think anyone says that anymore. Perhaps “coddling” someone would be similar enough, but I’m still not sure that this would commonly be used.




6)   Høy i hatten

Kjartan’s (literal) translation: High in the hat.

My friend’s take: Arrogant, conceited. He said he thinks “high in the hat” is a phrase in English too – if not one that is often used. I’ve never heard “high in the hat” before. I have, however, heard “High on the hog.” which seems to be more indicative of “living the high life” rather than confidence or arrogance.

My friend elaborated that “high in the hat” is not necessarily negative, it can just mean the person in question has a lot of confidence. Alternately, it can also mean a lack of confidence. He gave the example of a visibly scared first-time skydiver – such an individual may be described as not “høy i hatten”.


Images (left to right):,, 

7) Helt bak mål

My friend’s contribution, he mentioned this as another good phrase meaning, “completely behind the goal”. He says it’s a bit like saying “that’s crazy”, it is a phrase you can use when someone does or says something absurd. Perhaps an English equivalent is saying that’s completely “mental” (like, for example, dressing your dog up in summer clothes). My coworkers clarified for me that “helt bak mål” has the specific flavor of doing something with a lack of talent or an evident misunderstanding of the situation, in other words, “you’re wrong – and in a stupid way” (so, a bit like dressing up your dog in summer clothes?).







Share your favorite Norwegian phrases by commenting below!

Also, special thanks to a commentor on the last Norwegianisms post, “The year the mountains were so steep” named Elisabeth who pointed out that there was a hit song called “it was the year [it] was so steep” by Øystein Sunde (1971) – but the song has nothing to do with mountains.


16 comments for “Norwegianisms Part II: Full Pupp!

  1. Amy
    10. November 2015 at 12:23

    Thanks for an informative and entertaining post!

    • Stand Hiestand
      10. November 2015 at 15:57

      Thank you for reading and commenting! 🙂

  2. dronningenergal
    13. November 2015 at 16:31

    I think the English phrase “on your high horse” is closer to the meaning of Høy i hatten. You would say “get off your high horse” to someone who was being arrogant.

    • Stand Hiestand
      13. November 2015 at 18:03

      Yes! Thank you! That is the perfect equivalent idiom. I appreciate your comment!

    • Ragnfrid Llano
      14. November 2015 at 11:02

      No thats weong. To bee om the high horse og to be høy i hatten has two different meani hs. On your hugh horse you are a bit artogant and if you are ikke høy i hatten you are a bit scared

      • Stand Hiestand
        14. November 2015 at 21:08

        Thanks for your insight, Ragnfrid – I appreciate the distinction you make. I think “on your high horse” may be the closest we get in English in terms of the ‘arrogance’ piece of the meaning of “høy i hatten”, but it seems to have a connotation of confidence, which is why it can be used as scared when someone is “ikke høy i hatten” — and you’re right, I don’t think the “high horse” has that connotation at all.

  3. Steve
    13. November 2015 at 18:24

    “Balls to the wall” has nothing to do with testicles. It refers to the balls at the ends of throttle levers.

  4. Ole
    14. November 2015 at 15:11

    I don’t know about an equivalent phrase, but a common subsection of “en spansk en” is an alexandrian solution (existing, but infrequently used phrase in both Norwegian and English). All alexandrian solutions are “en spansk en”; not all “en spansk en” are alexandrian solutions.

  5. Roger
    14. November 2015 at 20:30

    Det blir andre boller, ta deg en bolle

    • Stand Hiestand
      14. November 2015 at 22:27

      Thanks for these, Roger! My friend is translating them for me and I like them – so much so that maybe there will have to be a part 3 in the future!

  6. samet
    24. November 2015 at 02:08

    hei… could u help me! how for i ll come to norway for an aducation..i hve finished physical and sport university in turkey last year just…so how i can have an aducation at university of bergen and im footballer normaly i m.stoped to play football..thanks a lot for all.. from diyarbakır/turkey

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *