International Student Blog

“The year the mountains were so steep” and other Norwegianisms

One of my favorite things is to speak to people who speak English as a second-language, there are many reasons for this, but ultimately I am just so completely enamored with the slight differences in phrasing non-native English speaker will use, whether they are translating a colloquialism, idiom, or common term directly from their language or just expressing themselves on the fly. I’ve been wanting, therefore, to share some of the Norwegian-isms I’ve either read about or encountered first hand that delight my non-Norwegian brain. Here’s my top 7 (so far):



1. Quite texas

Let’s start with an example that is embarrassing to my country of origin 😉

You may have noticed this article getting a fair amount of online attention lately. Apparently, in Norway it is common to use ‘texas’ as slang for ‘crazy’ — this is so much a part of the vernacular that popular pizza chain Dolly Dimples puts it in their advertising, characterizing their pizza deals as “helt texas”. (google translate “helt” as “quite” which gives a delightfully understated quality to the ‘insanity’: it’s “quite texas”). If you plan to adopt this term, know that, when used in true Norwegian fashion, it applies to situations not to people. So, calling that oddball professor ‘texas’…  not cool.

11088542_958446467529507_2834979166844817898_n Image:

2. Melkesyre i lårene

Melkesyre i lårene (“Thighs have gone sour”) seems an appropriate phrase to know when you’re living and hiking like the Norwegian natives. You are hiking aren’t you? You have to!

And, when you do hike, you may get that familiar sore feeling as lactic acid builds up in your muscles. As another American blogger in Bergen points out, melkesyre (milk-acid) is the Norsk word for lactic acid,  therefore”thighs have gone sour” is an apt description when “milk-acid” is flooding them.


3. Koselig

Koselig (cosy) in Norwegian extends beyond English’s focus on atmospheric comfort. Describing something as koselig denotes a more heartwarming and extreme cosiness (I like this idea… “extreme cosy!”) that extends to conversations, people, events, virtually anything enjoyed with friendly camaraderie. I think this article explains it well.  

To read some ideas for getting cosy and hopefully also koselig during the impending Norwegian winter, click here.

four-sleeping-baby-squirrels Image:

3. Solveggen

A solveggen (sun wall) is kind of like a sun patch for a cat, except outside and for Norwegians… or for anyone who appreciates some sun after a long dark winter. “Å sitte i solveggen” is sitting outside against a wall in the sun. I like to image the sun creating the wall, so to speak: wherever it casts its beams a Norwegian can pull up a chair and sit “on the sunwall” (or in the sunbeam).


4. Utepils

Utepils (outside-beer), a beer consumed outdoors, is relished any time of the year, but the first utepils after a long winter of innpils – or maybe innepils (in-beer or inside-beer), I don’t know (I assume I’m making this up, maybe a Norwegian can comment below and let me know if there is actually a legitimate term for beers consumed indoors) is prized. This first utepils of the new year may happen near or on the Easter Holiday. What’s that? You’re thirsty to learn about how Easter is celebrated here? Read more about Norwegian Easter here.


5. The year the mountains were so steep

One of my few, but very precious, Norwegian friends told me about this Norwegian expression, one that he heard regularly during his time in the army, “Ah, yes, it was that year when the mountains were so steep.” I adore this phrase, it feels like the ultimate version of an old saying my Dad often used, “In my day, I walked to school up hill both ways” (in the snow, of course).  I aspire to use this phrase in my daily life, but it an opportunity has not yet presented itself.


IMG_4325Any excuse to pull out pictures of some of my favorite Norwegian mountains. Lofoten. Photo: Stand Hiestand

6. Forelsket

According to this article, Forelsket refers to the intoxicating euphoria associated with falling in love.  I once read somewhere that this is associated with increased serotonin when you are around the object of your affections and decreased serotonin associated with, well… everything else. This leads to an increased desire to spend time (pair bonding) with that person, as well as increased time spent thinking and talking about said person. In the book I read (I wish I could remember the title), I believe they referred to it as ‘serotonin inflexibility’, so that’s how I like to refer to it (what a romantic!) – how much nicer to have a single-word term that probably doesn’t elicit strange looks from friends and family when you use it.


Jeg-elsker-deg Jeg elsker deg (I love you). Image: found here



7. Takk for maten

Takk for maten, or “Thanks for the food,” is both the Norwegian equivalent of “Thanks for having us”, a thank you to the host for their efforts in a meal and for their hospitality and a phrase commonly used in the context of shared meals in general. When it comes to being a guest, I find the directness and specificity of this phrase more charming than the generality and potential innuendo of “Thanks for having us”, although that can have it’s own charm in the right circumstances. But most of all, I think the practice of saying “takk for maten” after shared meals (especially dinner) is so sweet, a moment of gratitude and an expression of appreciation for a meal and those who worked to make it happen. My coworker informs me that the entire family says it before leaving the dinner table, and even a couple having their Monday dinner would use the phrase. 



Do you have any favorite Norwegianisms? Please share them below!

9 comments for ““The year the mountains were so steep” and other Norwegianisms

  1. Elisabeth
    2. November 2015 at 08:34

    “it was that year when the mountains were so steep” – “Det var det året det var så bratt” – is a song and an album from 1971 by Øystein Sunde. It instantly became a big hit. The literal translation would be “it was the year [it] was so steep” – there are no mountains in the Norwegian original, and since the text refers to a tram, [Briskebytrikken], the setting is obviously Oslo (where he lived in 1971), not the mountains.

    The lyrics may be found here:

    And here is a you-tube clip:

    Since “innepils” is the normal situation, this expression is not very commonly used.

    • Stand Hiestand
      2. November 2015 at 15:19

      Thanks so much for your comment! I love that “Det var det året det var så bratt” was a hit song in 1971 and it was awesome to learn that the literal translation was “it was the year it was so steep”, so were the train tracks referred to in the lyrics what was steep in the song – or just the year itself that was hard (seems from the translation I’m reading of the link to the lyrics that it’s the year)? Thanks for the links, I look forward to listening to the song! And thanks for your answer regarding “innepils”, that is very logical, but I was wishing there was a word for it 🙂

      • Liv-Norunn
        25. November 2015 at 17:10

        «Det var det året det var så bratt» My understanding is that it’s an expression describing a difficult year. A year filled with personal torments. Queen Elizabeth named such a year as «Annus horibilis».

        «Helt Texas» – as if no law or order’s present

        «Solveggen» When you sit with your back leaning to a wall warmed by the sun as the sun shines and warm your front, eventually, after a long winter filled with grey days, the sky almost touching the buildings, blizzards and everything else keeping you inside your house for months. It illustrates the happiness of at last coming out and the sun is actually warming your body after the months when the sun only provided light.

        «Takk for maten» It’s very rude not to express these words after a meal. It’s one of the first things you learn as a child. Children who forgets these words before asking to leave the table is reprimanded (-what did you forget now?)Another concequence of having such rude children is that the parents are looked upon as if they failed their job bringing up the children 🙂

        • Stand Hiestand
          27. November 2015 at 10:17

          Thanks for taking the time time to comment and thank you for these lovely and evocative descriptions! It is always excellent to get a more nuanced understanding of intriguing terminology!

  2. Anna
    13. November 2015 at 17:39

    Isn’t being “forelsket” just the same as the English phrase “in love”?

    And yes, my children of 8 and 4 never get to leave the table without saying “takk for maten” first. Thanks for having us is said when you leave the hosts house, right? So there’s a difference.

    • Stand Hiestand
      13. November 2015 at 18:10

      Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂
      You’re right that “in love” probably is equivalent, I guess as an English speaker “in love” is a bit dull and while it denotes a difference – being “in love” is different than “loving”, in my experience it doesn’t necessarily have an obvious connotation of giddy excitement. I was assuming (perhaps mistakenly) that forelsket did have that. Perhaps the English equivalent would be “smitten”, but that, I think, can be seen as more trivial than “in love”.

      You’re right, too about “thanks for having us” being more specific to hosts and guests than family situations. I guess in the US we do tend to say, “thanks for dinner” – we thank the person (often parent) feeding us for the specific meal. I still think “takk for maten” is better, as you can use it for any meal.

      • Jon ST
        5. December 2015 at 16:31

        I think of forelsket more as “infatuated.”

        • Stand Hiestand
          5. December 2015 at 18:26

          That’s a good definition for it!

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