Ah, the humble idiom.
Diverse, sometimes senseless, often bewildering; there is something utterly joyful about these day to day expressions we use that make perfect sense to us but leave language learners rocking or reaching for an alcoholic beverage.
Perhaps this is how world conflict should be resolved. Arrange a meeting with leaders of opposing countries or views and only allow them to communicate through the art that is idiomatic expression. How anyone could fail to forge friendships deciphering the hidden meanings is unfathomable to us.
But we are language experts, not political scientists. We will stick to what we know.
Photo via time.com / time.com
The Well-Travelled Idiom
Some idioms are ‘universal’ in that they have a version in many countries and still retain the same meaning - the different versions of there are two sides to a story (England), two sounds of a bell (French), and two ends to a sausage (Finnish) as an example (for more see here).
Some appear in multiple countries and keep a little of the sense but lose some of the vigour with which the idiom is expressed when translated - for instance in England we say ‘like a bull in a China shop’ to describe something done in a haphazard, hasty, clumsy way, whereas in Spain they replace the bull with a horse (como un caballo en una cacharrería). A little less of a catastrophic image there perhaps.
Some idioms, however, are so unique to the country from which they originate that you could probably identify them only if you knew a little about the country’s culture.
The further you head away from your own language, the more obscure the idiom.
Heading to northernmost Europe, Norway has beautiful landscapes and rich idioms to match. They even have Monty Python’s parrot ‘pining for the fjords’, which surely has become a proverb of sorts itself. You can watch the video here if you aren’t sure what we are referring to (shame on you…).
Norwegian idioms are quite straightforward and to the point - and up for misinterpretation by the unassuming non-native speaker. We quite like the fact that in Norway if someone says to you Du har fått en telefon - literally ‘you have a telephone’, it means you have a phone call.
Here are our five favourite idioms from Norway; we hope you enjoy them as much as we do.
Eclectic would be a very good way to describe these fine specimens. Our own somehow pale a little in comparison. We’re a little jealous in fact.
We want to learn Norwegian
Norwegian is something of a hidden treasure in the crown that is language learning and perhaps it has never occurred to you to take an interest in. But having read the idioms above, we are certain that it’s a language you’re keen on checking out now. Why not contact us and see what we can do to help you reach your language goals?