- It’s time to come back to one of my favorite pastimes, exploring Norwegian idioms! I love hearing, with a foreigner’s ear, the very specific (and to fresh ears, potentially eccentric) turns of phrase that cultures other than my own use. They strike me as anything from funny to genius, and I’m happy to share some new ones I’ve collected with you today! Special thanks to my friend Sam, who spent several solid hours with me discussing and googling idioms in both Norwegian and English, you know, for fun. Now, without further ado, 5 new (to me) Norwegian idioms!
1.Tatt på fersken
Tatt på fersken or “caught on the peach”. The English equivalent is probably “caught red handed”, “caught in the act”, or “busted!”. Why is it caught on the peach? I sure would like to know! Sadly, I couldn’t find out why it is ‘on the peach’ (if you know, please tell me below!), I did however, find out that there is a beer named after this idiom. And that is something I am happy to have learned.
2. Tatt med skjeggen i postkassen
Tatt med skjegget i postkassen – caught again! This time the phrase is roughly translated as “caught with your beard in the postbox”. It essentially means to be caught doing something foolish. And it apparently has the connotation that you are not achieveing your intended end, but instead have embarassed yourself. I suppose if you went to mail a letter but ended up with your beard stuck in the mailbox instead, that would both not have acheived your intended purpose, and would be publicly embarassing.
3. Uglene i mosene
Uglene i mosene, directly translated as “owls in the moss”, more specifically means “something’s fishy”, or possibly, “I smell a rat”, meaning something seems off about a situation. Why owls? Some sources on the internet indicate it may have originated as a Danish expression in which ulves (wolves) were actually the ones in the moss... and wolves meant something dangerous was afoot!
4. Eier ikke nåla i veggen
Eide ikke nåla i veggen, “didn’t own a needle (or pin or possibly hook) in the wall” is a phrase indicating poverty. This could be similar to the cruder English idiom, “doesn’t have a pot to piss in”. The Norwegian phrase may come from people’s habit, in “the old days”, of using the wall to store various household goods, so if a family lacked a container for their needles they may have poked them into the wall. Therefore, not even having a needle in the wall would indicate poverty.
Og, til syvende og sist we come to the final idiom for the day…
5. Til syvende og sist
Til syvende og sist, literally “to the seventh and last”, more accurately means “ultimately”. Initially I thought it might be equivalent to the English phrase “last but not least”, but as I started researching it online, I didn’t see that as a possible meaning. It really just seems to mean, “ultimately”. It strikes me as an extremely long and specific way to say ultimately!
Ultimately, I couldn’t find a picture that accurately represented “til syvende og sist”, but I thought something stately seemed appropriate. Image: http://www.digi.no/juss_og_samfunn/2014/09/30/regjeringen-vil-fjerne-hindre-mot-nettsky-bruk