Friday, October 22, 2010

Farger - Colours

I have always been interested in colours and what they represent and what they are used for in different cultures and languages. This short list of the colours in Norwegian gives a little taste of what exactly I mean.

Hvit (white)
Hvitløk (white onion): garlic. I don't really know the exact biological relationship between onion and garlic but I do think it is funny how certain languages bind together onion and garlic, for example Norwegian (onion: løk – garlic: hvitløk) or Hungarian (onion: hagyma – garlic: fokhagyma), while others don't (English; French: onion: oignon – garlic: ail; Spanish: onion: cebolla – garlic: ajo).
Hvitost (white cheese): semi soft cheese that is (despite the name) yellow... see gulost below.
Svart (black)
Svarteper (Black Peter): this is the way Norwegians call the card game Old Maid and this can be used to describe a person with a bad hygiene as well. I guess it is rather playful. I have also seen the expression Nysjerrigper meaning curious Peter. This is a sort of association for kids interested in the world and eager to know more about it
Svartalv: a demonic figure in the nordic mythology. This is actually everything I know about it at the moment but I am pretty sure I will write later on more about this and other mythological creatures like the trolls or the Huldra.
Svartsynt (black-minded): being a pessimist. Nice and simple!
Rød (red)
Rødlista (The Red List): Also Norway has its own red list where they enlist animals and plants that are endangered in the country. Some examples: otters, blue whales, bears, grey seals, wolves, narwhals...
Rødbete (red beet): beetroot. Sugar beet is called hvitbete (white beet).
And if someone doesn't have a red øre on him (ikke ha en rød øre på seg), it means he doesn't have a single penny. (Hundred øres make one Norwegian Crown (NOK). Today there are only 50-øre-coins in Norway. You practically dont get anything for 50 øre, Norwegians often dont understand why it even exists.)
Blå (blue)
blåmandag: a Monday when you dont work. I am not sure where this is coming from but you have the expression blue Monday (blauer Montag) also is the German language. It might have something to do with the fact that to be blue in German (blau sein) means to be drunk. Or with the fact that to be blue in English means to be sad... Isn't it interesting?
Gul (yellow)
gulost (yellow cheese): semi soft cheese. In the supermarket you often see both hvitost and gulost, to be honest I dont see any difference and Im not sure Norwegians do. My guess is that it is a question of where you live.
Den gule presse (the yellow press): I don't think I have to introduce this – yellow press means the tabloids. This expression also exists in English. However, more interesting is the fact that I've already seen for example prensa rosa in Spanish which also stands for tabloids but means pink press.
Grønn (green)
The expression på Guds grønne jord (on the green world of God) means something like in the entire world (said in a much more dramatic tone...:)

This was just a short selection, I hope the readers learning Norwegian managed to learn the name of the colours by the end of the article! Can you give me some similar examples in your mother tongue? ;)

N. B.: Oh yes, and one more thing: orange (the colour) is called oransje in Norwegian, although they don't use this name for the fruit (that is called appelsin).

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