In the beginning, when first learning Danish, you have no immediate use for the different colourful sayings of the Danish language. Your focus is naturally on gaining the language skills required to order a cup of coffee or read a letter from the bank.
As speaking Danish becomes more and more natural, you gradually start to notice more than a few expressions with 'figurative meaning'.
Teaching the Danish language is our bread and butter and learning a language is more than just knowing the most necessary phrases. Idiomatic expressions can sound absolutely ridiculous but provide colour and spice to any language.
Find some of the more commonly used idioms and their meaning below.
Don't come here and play King carrot
'KOM IKKE HER OG SPIL KONG GULEROD':
If someone acts just a tad too superior or stuck-up, a Dane will say, ‘Don’t come here and play king carrot’.
The expression is supposed to originate from a French satiric operetta ‘Le Roi Carotte’ by Jacques Offenbach from 1872. In this light opera, the carrot leads a rebellion, where all the vegetables in the kitchen garden seize power in France.
A hen to pluck with you
'EN HØNE AT PLUKKE MED DIG'
In Danish we do not 'pick a bone' with somebody, instead we 'pluck a hen'. f you want a serious word with someone because of their bad behavior, you might say, ‘I have a hen to pluck with you’. This expression is popular in several other countries as well e.g. Germany and the Netherlands.
Go cake in it
'GÅ KAGE I DET'
Nothing goes haywire (wrong) for Danes. Instead, there might go cake in it. Who exactly let the cake loose and why it's determined to undermine your plans, projects and initiatives, nobody knows.
Before the devil puts shoes on
FØR FANDEN FÅR SKO PÅ
The devil is popular in the Danish language and we have several expressions with the Bible’s Bad Boy. In fact, Danes rarely take the Lord's name in vain, but the devil is another matter.
If something takes place really early in the morning, a Dane might say, ‘It’s before the devil puts shoes on’.
Go totally in fish
GÅ HELT I FISK
Another expression to relay that something is a complete fail or that someone made a hash of things involves cold-blooded animals. If your plans go horribly wrong, a Dane could say, 'It's all gone in fish'.
A similar expression goes 'things went in goat' and also refers to an unsuccesful venture. Why the Danes use the animal kingdom to explain failure we have no idea.
It bottles itself
DET FLASKER SIG
While 'cake or fish in your plans' means something was unsuccessful, the exact opposite is true, if you put it in a bottle. If a Dane wants to reassure someone, s/he might say, ‘Don’t worry, it will all bottle itself’.
The meaning being, 'Don't worry, everything will be okay'.
What's on the wallpaper today?
HVAD ER DER PÅ TAPETET I DAG?
If a Dane wants to know today's plans, s/he might say, ‘What’s on the wallpaper today?’
The story goes that during the Renaissance people used to call a table cloth for 'tapet' and the expression was a way to ask if more food was on it's way. Today the meaning is 'what's today's order of business?'
You must have eaten nails!
DU MÅ HAVE SPIST SØM!
If a Dane wants to express disbelief or thinks what you are saying is completely wrong, s/he might exclaim, ‘You must have eaten nails!’
To shoot the parrot
AT SKYDE PAPEGØJEN
If you win the lottery or anything else considered really lucky, a Dane might say, 'You have really shot the parrot’.
The expression is often used when a person does better than expected. For example finds a job with excellent perks or a girl-/boyfriend 'prettier', 'smarter' or 'richer' than yourself.
Any other expressions
Do you know any other idioms or sayings in Danish? Or how about in your native tongue? Leave a comment and tell us your favorite idioms.