TOP FIVE: Complex and colloquial Norwegian phrases for foreigners

Wondering why Norwegians are always bringing up fruits, fish, butter, and bones when theyʼre making a point? Weʼve got the breakdown on idioms.

Perhaps the most useful tool available to international students living in Norway is Google Translate. Not a day goes by when I do not tap a word into that little white box, copy and paste a section from a document, or hit the translate button on the top of a webpage. However, it has its limitations. This week’s top five reveals the five funniest translate faux pas and colloquial idioms that do not translate word for word. Most online translators have picked up on some of these idioms now, but as a person fresh from Norwegian language classes, perhaps these may have gone unnoticed.

1. «Å bli tatt på fersken.» Word for word, it translates to «to be taken on the peach,» but it really means «to be caught red handed.»

2. «Jeg har en høne å plukke med deg». Directly, this translates to «I have a hen to pick with you.» Similar to «I have a bone to pick with you,» it means; I have an issue with you.

3. «Å ha bein I nesa.» Literally «to have bones in the nose.» This doesn’t correspond to any English colloquial expression I know of. It refers to someone being very tough.

4. «Det er helt Texas,» directly translates to «That is totally Texas.» According to several Norwegians I asked, it means something is really crazy.

5. Finally, the best of the best of confusing, untranslatable Norwegian expressions: «Midt i smørøyet.» Google translation will not help you with this one as it word for word translates to «In the middle of the butter island.» More accurately it is «To be in the middle of the butter’s eye.» Still confused? I was too. In essence it describes how someone is in the best possible spot.

Leave a comment below if you have encountered any other funny translation misdemeanours!