It’s been a while since we had some fun with Norwegian idioms, those untranslatable little constructs that make learning Norwegian such a joyous activity – or not. Whether you like or hate them, it’s undeniable that they really help with making one sound more like a native speaker. And it also makes it much easier to understand what others are saying, considering how fond Norwegians are of using these.
So let us brighten up your day with a new set of funny and confusing Norwegian idioms. As usual, you’ll find the original saying in the Norwegian language followed by the literal translation, the actual meaning, and an example or explanation where needed.
Har du røyka sokka dine?
Translation: Have you smoked your socks?
Meaning: Are you insane?
Example: Har du røyka sokka dine? Det er ingen sjanse for at jeg forlater huset etter klokka 11 på kvelden for å gå på fest!
Bite i gresset
Translation: Bite the grass
Meaning: Admit defeat
Example: Hun må bite i gresset og innse at hun ikke har nok tid til å gjøre alt.
Å leve av/på luft og kjærlighet
Translation: Live on air and love
Meaning: Live without means, be so madly in love that you don’t need anything else
Example: Man kan jo ikke leve av luft og kjærlighet.
Å gjøre noen en bjørnetjeneste
Translation: Do someone a bear-favour
Meaning: To do a well-intentioned disservice, trying to do the right thing but doing the exact opposite
Explanation: From La Fontaine’s fable The Bear and the Gardener in which a bear accidentally kills his friend while trying to swat at flies.
Å ha det som plommen i egget
Translation: To have it like the yolk in the egg
Meaning: To be in an ideal situation, to have as good a time as possible
Example: Her har vi det som plommen i egget.
Å være født bak en brunost
Translation: To be born behind a brown cheese
Meaning: To be a bit slow, stupid
Explanation: Brown cheese or “mysost” is a Norwegian specialty, a sweet, caramel-like dairy product made from goat’s milk.
Å være midt i smørøyet
Translation: To be in the middle of the butter eye
Meaning: Something that is located in an ideal place, to be in a good spot.
Explanation: The smørøye is the actual knob of butter in the middle of the rice porridge. Traditionally rice porridge is served with sugar and cinnamon, as well as a generous amount of butter. The melted butter forms a little puddle in the middle of the plate known as the butter eye. As you can imagine, that spot is seen as a very good thing.
Å tråkke i salaten
Translation: To step in the salad
Meaning: To mess up, act tactlessly, to put your foot in it
Example: Nå har jeg virkelig tråkket i salaten og irritert hele families.
Tant og fjas / tull og tøys
Translation: Taunt and silliness
Meaning: silly and/or useless things/activities
Example: Barna trenger noe å gjøre så de ikke kaster bort tid på tant og fjas.
Ta det helt piano
Translation: Take it totally piano
Meaning: Take it easy, relax, don’t get too worked up about something (what you would say to a friend to get them to calm down)
Example: Vi rekker toget, ta det helt piano.
If you have somehow missed our previous article with some of the most used expressions in Norwegian, don’t forget to check that one out next to level up your Norwegian vocabulary immediately.
And if you have any fun idioms in your own language that you’d like to share with us, leave a comment below and we’ll see if we can find its equivalent in Norwegian.