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DANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Danish Word of the Day: Tosse

It doesn’t mean what you think it means.

What is tosse?

A noun, tosse — plural, tosser — can variously be translated to fool, idiot, weirdo or simpleton, and is as insulting and/or offensive as any of these words, depending on context.

In a compound with the Danish word for village (landsbytosse), it literally means village idiot.

When it is coupled with another word, it can mean someone who is behaving in a stupid or irrational manner over a particular subject.

This was demonstrated a few years ago when right wing politician Pia Kjærsgaard was ridiculed for calling people who consider climate change an important issue (that’s a lot of people in Denmark) klimatosser or “climate nuts”. The remark backfired due to the broad acceptance of climate change as being a serious matter.

It doesn’t have to be used discourteously. Calling someone a fodboldtosse, for example, simply means they are crazy about football.

Why do I need to know tosse?

If you live in Denmark, there’s a good chance you’ll have seen tosse or one of its compound nouns being thrown around at some point as a derogatory remark.

But the word itself is not actually as rude as it might seem to English speakers (particularly British readers, who will be used to the more offensive connotations of the English-language homonym).

There are plenty of ways of employing tosse without seeking to degrade people you don’t like — it can easily be used to spread the love.

You can also use it as a present-perfect tense verb where it literally means “have gone crazy”, but is used to say, “am crazy about” or “am in love with”: Jeg er tosset med dig therefore means “I’m crazy about you”.

Examples

Hun er sådan en Sopranos-tosse, så hun var helt oppe at køre over den nye film.

She’s crazy about The Sopranos, so she was very excited about the new film.

Jeg er helt tosset med Ed Sheerans nye album.

I just love Ed Sheeran’s new album.

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DANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Danish expression of the day: At slå på tråden

Give us a ring and we'll tell you about the word of the day.

Danish expression of the day: At slå på tråden

What is at slå på tråden?

The literal meaning of this phrase is “to hit on the thread”. Of course, it has nothing to do with making flirtatious advances towards a piece of string, or striking some yarn, but figuratively means to make a telephone call.

Given the informal, familiar tone of the expression, it can be thought of as a Danish equivalent to “give you a call”, “ring me”, “give me a bell” or any other way you can think of saying “make a telephone call”.

Why do I need to know at slå på tråden?

It’s a phrase that is still used in everyday conversation, although perhaps more so by older generations. But what makes at slå på tråden (in my opinion) a charming expression is the fact that it is technologically obsolete.

This is because it comes from the use of cables (another meaning of the word tråd, although kabel is also used for “cable”) in old-fashioned telephone connections, or even from pre-telephone times.

The expression is said to have its roots in times when a telegraph operator would send a message by tapping morse code signals, which were transmitted as electrical impulses through cables. So you would have literally had to “hit a cable” if you wanted to send a message.

The modern equivalent of morse code — an SMS — is now wireless, just like phone calls. But the phrase at slå på tråden endures despite the fact it will make little sense to those who have only seen a cable attached to a phone when it is charging.

Examples

Vi kan lige mødes til en øl på fredag. Jeg slår på tråden, når jeg får fri.

We can meet for a quick beer on Friday. I’ll give you a ring when I get off work.

Slå lige på tråden, når du er kommet godt hjem.

Give me a quick call when you’ve arrived home safely.

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