We catch up with an a police van in the silly season

5. November 2014 Languages, News

The inquisitive mind never sleeps, and in recent weeks we repeatedly been confronted with expressions that good enough is accepted as part of the patchwork that constitutes the Danish language, but taken out of context does not make any sense. Unless, of course, you know the background of each linguistic whimsy. We therefore continue our odyssey into the Danish language with research of a number of terms we have come across, not only through translations and interpretations, but also in daily conversation in the office. For how much do we really know about what we are saying to each other?

  • Not sticking up for bun milk – not nearly as sexy as it may sound.We must go back to the old, Danish farming community to get a sensible explanation of what bun milk is and why you do not want to stick it anywhere. At the time were all harvesting by hand without assistance from harvesters or genetic modification, and the hardest work was to “stick up” – to lift the sheaves from the field up to the carriage and then up in the hayloft, only using pitchfork, narrow ladders and sore shoulders. There were some fiber and vitamins, and it was not much of in the popular seafood dinner “bun milk” which consisted of – well, guess what – buns doused with hot milk. Høstkarlene should have proper diet to gain strength for the work, and therefore the term that you will not find in something unreasonable.
    • shanghaied – to go to China without a penny in your pocket?The term “shanghaied someone something” is widely used to lure or manipulate someone to do something they would not otherwise have done, and it is also exactly how the concept has emerged. It was the widespread practice in the last century that cunning captains of Shanghai during port landed, took a quick trip to the nearest tavern and drank the ubiquitous sailors full to such an extent that they could easily have kidnapped or persuaded to sleep it of on board the nearest schooner, with the result that the poor men woke up on a foreign ship miles away from land and was forced to work as cheap labor without the possibility of escape. Not unlike the 90 charter flights to Kalymnos.
      • Black Maria – A dear name has many fathers’Black Maria’ is a term often discussed because virtually everyone knows what it is, but few know where it comes from. It is a quite reasonable explanation, namely that there are several different versions of how the police force big blue van got its name. An explanation drawn back to the 1880s where they were, when horse-drawn, actually green. The story reports that a prisoner sitting in the car sourly noted that “because the coach is green as a Black Maria, do you gentlemen as not to be acidic as vinegar.” Another theory is that the green-painted wagon to resemble those peasants transported salad to market. Last but not least the book “Danish Study” from 1920 that the name comes from the comparison with a colander, then it was a pretty harrowing affair in the old days to be transported to the detention center in a horse-drawn carriage without shock absorbers of Copenhagen cobblestones.
        • shebang – not to be confused with the great titIs not a small Danish songbird, but rather a corruption of several linguistic contortions of the French ‘minuet’, which was a prevalent dance that Danes diligently embarked on festive occasions in the last century. The dance starts at a slow, leisurely pace, but ends with quick moves and fierce pace in a circle. One would therefore have the whole dance with to get to the real fun part. ‘The whole shebang’ can interchangeably be replaced by other terms, such as ‘whole quilt,’ ‘the whole mess’ or ‘whole caboodle’ (like with Jutland pronunciation).
          • silly season – also known as reading 17 articles on Justin Bieber in 3 daysComes from the German ‘Sauregurkenzeit’ and is therefore not a specifically Danish phenomenon. It covers the time of year when the cucumbers ripen in midsummer, and many Danes go on vacation (and many Germans take to Denmark). It is used, however, most in the media world, the times when all of the country’s journalists seem to be depleted of energy and inspiration, and therefore write articles about things that either have been consulted 3-4 times before and is therefore not news anymore or generally boom-unattractive. “Slugs found at Stevns!” Yeah, but they were also there last year and the year before, and before that it was outside Slagelse and … Follow the next time we blog about misleading childhood learning and discriminatory proverb!