Monday, November 12, 2012

Vowels: non-exchangeable, returnable or refundable. Results may vary.

Alternative title: Damn You Danish!  *shakes fist*

Not that I’ve made any serious errors lately, but I did come close.  The Danish word for “savings bonds” is “obligation” so when asked, in Danish, if we have obligations, I was *this* close to raising my hand.

Obligations?  Yeah, I’ve got obligations!  I have two mortgages and a child in childcare, a car that needs maintenance and gas, a husband who seems to keep eating food despite him being fully grown so stop eating so much, m’kay?  Obligations?  Oh, I got your obligations right here, buddy.

Uh, wait, obligations means bonds?  Er, um, no.  No, I have no bonds.  Totally bondless here.  Double-O-uh-oh, that's me.

Thank god I’m always about 5 seconds slower in Danish.  Prevents some silly errors.

Then later I was asked if I had “strøm” and I was completely flummoxed.  Some hand waving and danglish later, we had ascertained that I had indeed a fully charged battery on my computer and yes, Jesper may borrow my charger.

Is it weird that my brain kept wanting to add “und Drang” after hearing strøm?  I have either too much education or not enough intelligence, and I’m not sure which.  But it definitely means I’ve had too many language classes, that’s for sure.

Meanwhile, when I write in Danish, I run it through Google Translate to catch the egregious errors.*  Like in spelling.  One wrong letter may not seem like a lot, but it’s the difference between the government-mandated garbage bins and government-mandated garbage bans.  Or the difference between putting a gin to your lips or a gun to your lips.  Or being stuck in a traffic-jam or stuck in a cow.  Okay, that last one only works if you are writing Danish (kø vs. ko), but you can see where a girl writing about farming might want to be careful about where she puts her Ø.

Sometimes I just write the wrong word.  I wanted to write a sentence describing how a virus invades a cell and turns it into a virus factory.  Fine.  Except my brain stuck “invander” in for “invader” rather than “angriber”.  “Invander” is a word, one I read all the time, it means “immigrant.”  So my viruses were immigrating to the bacteria cell and working in factories there.  Probably for below minimum wage and without access to union representation.  I was highly amused with myself for a while. 

It goes the other way as well.  The Danish word for clouds is “sky” and my little brain just will not read it that way.  “What do you mean there is sky today?  Isn’t there always sky??” I say.  By the way, saying that in Danish means you are being witty and clever in regards to the weather.  “Yes,” laughs the Dane, “I suppose we do always have clouds.”  *Confusion* 

I have a lovely image of the Danes meeting the English and exchanging vocabulary. 

“Så hvad er den der?” Asks the Viking, angrily stabbing his finger up at the heavens, obscured, as England always is during certain times of the year, with clouds.  He did not travel all the way across the North Sea for more of the same damn weather.

“’Wot ‘ar dem der?’  Why good fellow, that there is the sky!” Says the portly merchant, cowering with the other villagers in the town square.

“Sku?  Det er en god ord.  Jeg ta’ det og alle jeres gul!  Nu!”

Or maybe it was the other way around, since English is better known for stealing words from other languages.

“Øv, der er altid sky her!” says Svend Svendsen (Barbarian Invader Inc., est. 875 CE, “We invade, so you will pay”), shaking his fist at the clouds.

“He’s put off by… what was that?  The “sky”?  I say, what a nice word.  If I get out of this alive, I may want to use it in conversation with my neighbors over in Little-Big-Watting-Up-Downs-on-the-Slough.  I’ll appear very worldly and posh,” thinks social climber and sometime merchant, Horatio Bucket.  That’s Boo-kay, dear.

And the more tired I am, the more mistakes I make.  Thankfully, the Danish Boy is there to mangle English from time to time, for my amusement.  The other night he told me that the chimney swiper had come by for the chimneys.

And then he tells me about the new government substitutions.  You know, where they give you money for stuff.  Uh, subsides?  Yeah, that’s what I said, substitutions.

*Hugs him*  Isn't he cute?

* I do NOT write in English and then put it into GT to translate for me.  That would be the epitome of stupid.  GT makes for some hilarious translations.  It is good enough to give you an idea of what was written and it’s a fair dictionary (better than my normal English-Danish dictionary in regards to farm and technical vocabulary) but for the love of god, don’t use it to write your Danish for you!


  1. And coming from the other side of the fence. This! The small changes in pronounciation is what sometimes make me struggle to understand my husband when he's speaking Danish, which in turn drives him bonkers, but what I hear is not what he is saying.

    Of course, I did once announce in German that we eat small dogs in Denmark. I did gather from the shocked expressions that something was wrong, though. :p

    1. My accent and horrible pronunciation of Danish throws many Danes. It's one of those crazy things where I can understand some of the most poorly pronounced English and whacked out accents and yet Danes have a really hard time if all the å ø and æ are not spot on.

      The only explanation I have is that although Danish has many accents throughout Denmark, they aren't really all that different from one another, not like, say the way a Southern accent is different from the New York or Boston accent which are all lightyears away from the East-Ender London accent or the folks from Birmingham and Liverpool. And that doesn't take into account the accents of the people from the Pacific regions or Asian countries that also speak English - all with their very own, very distinct accent. So English speakers are subjected to a wide variety of accents from an early age (via TV and film) and since many of us never learn another language, it's understand each other or perish. Danes hear Danish mostly from other ethnic Danes or people raised in Denmark. And because you learn English or German at a young age, it's easier to swap to those languages with foreigners.

  2. I agree. I think it is a combination of those minute differences in pronunciation that produces a completely different word, and then not being exposed to many different types of pronunciations of Danish.

    In fact not all Danes can understand each other either. I've had people from Sjælland not understand me if I switched to Western Jutland dialect instead of the Mid-Jutland dialect that I usually speak, and I have to admit that I have to concentrate to understand thick Southern- or Northern Jutland accent, and I am not always successful. And it is not that common to hear the strong Danish dialects in TV either, whereas, as you say, we hear much more US English and British English accents.


Keep it clean, don't be mean....