15 funny and clever Norwegian expressions

Like any other language, Norwegian has many clever expressions. Others are strange and funny, fitting for certain moments.

While some are Norwegian versions of common English expressions, others are pure Norwegian.

Here are 15 common Norwegian expressions you would definitely integrate into your vocabulary

Å sitte/stå med skjegget i postkassen

This proverb translates to “stand/sit with the beard in the mailbox”. It is somewhat like the English proverb of “being left holding the dag”. But it is rather used to describe someone in trouble, often due to his or her own doing/choice, as opposed to due to the actions or lack thereof of others.

One example would be someone not bothering to secure their boat in anticipation of a storm, only to have it break loose and be destroyed. That person will be left “sittenede med skjegget i postkassen”.

Å kjøpe katta i sekken

This one is similar to the expression to be standing with “skjegget i postkassen”. It translates to “buying the cat in the bag” and is when making a bad purchase, or when fooled into purchasing something.

For example, if someone used all his/her savings to purchase stocks in a company. Only to have it go bankrupt 6 months later could be said to have “kjøpt katta i sekken”.

Å reise kjerringa

This proverb is directly translated to “raise the old woman”. But, kjerringa does not actually mean old woman at all. It actually refers to the mast wheel at the bottom of a sailboat. So the actual translation becomes “to raise the mast wheel”.

This makes more sense, as it refers to making a sailboat sailworthy again. This is closer to the meaning of the expression, as it refers to someone making a comeback, or getting back on their feet after a poor performance or defeat.

Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlig klær

This expression translates to “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”. It sounds a lot better in Norwegian, given that weather and clothes (vær and klær) rhyme.

The expression is fitting for how Norwegians face the sometimes harsh Norwegian climate. That said, Norwegians also have great respect for poor weather conditions. But there is no excuse for postponing work that needs doing because it’s raining.

Å bli tatt på sengen

This expression translates into “ being taken on the bed”. It is an expression of being taken aback by something. It is actually quite fitting when you consider how someone reacts to being suddenly awakened when sleeping.

Å ha is i magen

To have “is i magen” translates into “having ice in your stomach”. It has nothing to do with either ice cubes or ice cream. It rather refers to someone staying completely calm and balanced or patient when faced with a difficult task or decision.

Å ane ugler i mosen

This expression translates into “To sense owls in the moss”. It actually means that you are suspecting danger on the move, foul play, or that there is something suspicious about something.

Owls don’t hang around in the moss, so how did the expression come about? It actually comes from danish, and originally it stated that “der er uller i mosen”. Uller was a danish dialect for wolves, and mosen means march. So the original expression was that there were wolves in the marsh.

As wolves were eradicated from Denmark, the saying eventually changed to “owls in the march”, which was then incorporated into the Norwegian language.

Å Gå rundt grøten

This funny expression directly translates to “to walk around the porridge”. It is the Norwegian synonym for the English proverb “to beat about the bush”. It means the same thing, which is to delay or avoid talking about or doing something difficult or unpleasant.

Det var helt texas!

When a Norwegian expresses that something was “helt texas”, they mean that it was totally crazy. It refers to the old wild west, with a lack of law and order.

Man skal ikke skue hunden på hårene

This expression is directly translated as “you should judge a dog by its hairs“. It is the Norwegiaequalnt of the English proverb that you “shouldn’t judge a book by its cover”.

Å lage en storm i et vannglass

This translates to “making a storm in a glass of water” and is the Norwegian equal of the English expression “making a storm in a teacup”. Essentially it means that you are making a problem or big deal out of a non-issue or trivial matter.

Ta det med en klype salt

This expression is directly translated into its English synonym to “take it with a pinch of salt”. which is to say to regard something with skepticism or not to interpret something literally.

Ta det for god fisk

To take something “for god fisk” directly translates into taking something “for good fish”. It means that you believe what you are told and accept something without hesitation. For example, you can lend someone money and take it for “god fisk” that he/she will pay you back because he/she said so.

Å ha det som plommen i egget

This expression can be directly translated into “being like the yolk in the egg”. It means that you are very comfortable or content with how things are/the current situation.

For example, if you are on vacation, and someone asks you how you are doing, you can reply that you “har det som plummen i egget”.

Å være en lasaron

To be a “lasaron” is to be a deadbeat. This is someone who is unable to keep a job, maintain a household or family, and walkabout in the streets and parks of cities. How the word made its way into the Norwegian language is uncertain.

Originally, lazzaroni was a word used to describe the poor deadbeats in Naples. The word was likely imported by young, rich Scandinavians traveling to Italy and Naples as part of their grand tour in the 1700s.

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Erik is the creator and editor of Planet Norway. Born in Trondheim and currently living in Oslo, Erik knows the ins and outs of Norwegian History, society, and culture. His idea for starting planet Norway came about when helping his foreign fiance to settle in Norway.