I was determined to learn the language since I was planning to stay a while and watched avidly to see if I could pick up any handy words or phrases.
In fact, this was my second meeting with the Norwegian language. The first was through Norwegian music. As a child, I’d idolised the Norwegian band A-ha, the members of which my friends and I referred to as Morten (easy enough), Pal (as in chummy) and Magne (as in mag and knee).
Around the time of my first visit to Norway, the song titles and lyrics of various Norwegian metal bands were a hot topic in the English rock magazines of the day. I remember my bemusement at the fact that the vocalist of a metal band had chosen to call himself ‘Hat’. I later discovered that this was the Norwegian word for hate, a bit more fitting for his genre, although I pronounced it ‘hat’, as in the head attire, for some time all the same. Then there was the band ‘Taake’, which I pronounced ‘take’, as in Take On Me.
The locals in Bergen were undoubtedly impressed, or at least entertained, when 18-year-old me attempted to pronounce album titles such as Hordanes Land and Vikingligr Veldi by the Viking metal band Enslaved. It was a big step up from the phrases I’d managed to pick up from my ‘New in Norway’ book.
My musical preferences have changed somewhat over the years, and my pronunciation has definitely improved. However, it wasn’t that long ago that I discovered another music-related phrase that I had managed to mishear and mispronounce over my now many years in Norway. This was the Norwegian ‘noe i den duren’, meaning ‘that sort of thing’. Except that I had always heard the word ‘dur’, meaning a musical key, as ‘dør’ meaning door. It made perfect sense to me. I’d imagined a big room with rows of doors representing different choices, and that the correct decision wasn’t behind that door, but that one.
As a translator in Allegro språktjenester, I come across new words and phrases nearly every day in a huge range of fields and disciplines, including the world of music. Phrases still crop up from time to time that I have heard and used often, but that take on a slightly different meaning when I see them for the first time in written form. And I now associate ‘Hat(s)’ and ‘Taake’ with the weather in Bergen rather than its metal scene.
NICOLA TRIER 26.9.17
Illustrasjon: Øystein Reigem