The Danish People's Party (DF) are well-known defenders of the Danish language but a suggestion by DF MP Alex Ahrendtsen to protect the local language by taxing the use of English was a bridge too far even for his party colleagues.
Ahrendsten suggested to the political website Altinget that an excise duty should be imposed on advertisers that use English words in their messages. The MP suggested that this would be a useful tool in stopping the erosion of the “beautiful” Danish language.
“We wish that they [advertisers] would stop speaking to us in English. It irritates me to no end,” Ahrendsten said.
“If one uses English in an ad, it should cost a bit more. We can't forbid them from making ads in English but we can make them think twice by hitting them in the wallet,” he added.
Ahrendsten said this in Danish of course and The Local has taken the liberty of translating them to English, but luckily we don't have to worry about going bankrupt for doing so. Ahrendsten was nearly immediately put in his place by senior DF member Søren Espersen.
“A suggestion to tax ads in foreign languages is not DF's policy. I have expressed that to Alex Ahrendtsen this morning,” Espersen tweeted.
Although Espersen quickly stepped in as a voice of reason, the damage had been done. The Danish political Twittersphere nearly exploded with reactions to Ahrendsten's suggestion.
Education Minister Christine Antorini suggested that “Facebook should hurry up and rename itself ‘Ansigtsbog',” directly translating the social media giant's name into Danish.
The minister for higher education, Morten Østergaard, also got in on the fun, asking DF party leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl what should be done about words like computer, jazz, bacon and pulled pork.
Østergaard's Social Liberal (Radikale) cohort Jeppe Mikkelsen summed up his thoughts rather succinctly by calling the idea “bullshit” while Liberal Alliance's Simon Ammitzbøll responded in English with “no more taxes”.
DF vil have punktafgifter på engelske reklamer (!!!). Well, beskat mig når jeg siger BULLSHIT.— Jeppe Mikkelsen (@JeppeMikkelsen) June 4, 2015
Although Ahrendsten was quickly forced to admit to Altinget that the idea was a mistake, it should be noted that this was far from the first time that DF has tried to silence non-Danish speakers.
In February, the party called on Danish universities to stop offering courses in English, a suggestion it has made numerous times over the years.
The month before that, the party's immigration spokesman was up in arms over supermarket Føtex's decision to use Arabic signs at their Sønderborg location in order to accommodate the refugees at the nearby asylum centre.
In 2013, former party leader Pia Kjærsgaard caused a furore when she said that foreigners, English-speakers presumedly included, should only speak Danish in public.
“They live in Denmark. They live in the Danish society. Why isn't Danish what we should hear on the streets?” she said in a November 2013 appearance on Deadline.
See also: Top ten mistakes Danes make in English
Ahrendsten and Kjærsgaard have a long road ahead of them if they want to eliminate English. Not only does English serve as a common language for the hundreds of thousands of non-Danes living in Denmark, but the Danes themselves are the world's best speakers of English as a second language.
Although, come to think of it, they do make their fair share of mistakes. Maybe DF can find a way to tax that instead?