Oh… The Danish town that wants to change its name

An east Jutland town could undergo a subtle change in identity, should residents and local councillors get their way.

Oh… The Danish town that wants to change its name
A damaged Danish town name sign (from neither Hov nor Hou). Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix

Hov, located in Odder Municipality south of Aarhus, wants to change the v in its name to a u, rebranding itself as Hou, broadcaster DR reports.

A unanimous decision was taken on Monday by the municipal council in the town, which has a population of around 1,500, to make the change.

That followed a referendum for residents which was held alongside last month’s European election, when 844 people voted in favour of the name ‘Hou’, while 49 marked their cross next to ‘Hov’.

In Danish, ‘hov’ is a filler word generally used as an expression of surprise or a minor error – loosely akin to ‘oops’ or ‘oh’ in English.

It is also often used to stop someone in their tracks if they seem to be doing something wrong (‘Hov! You left your wallet on the table. Here, don’t forget it.’).

Additionally, it is the Danish word for ‘hoof’.

There are two other places called ‘Hou’ in Denmark – a tiny parish on the island of Langeland and a fishing village in Vendsyssel, part of northern Jutland and a popular spot for tourists for its harbour and beach.

There are no other towns called ‘Hov’ in Denmark although there is a village (bygd) by the name in the Faroe Islands.

“This is a clear approval from the people of Hov, which we unanimously support,” Odder Municipality lord mayor Uffe Jensen told DR.

The name change must be approved by the Ministry of Culture’s Committee for Place Names (Stednavneudvalg), with a decision to be made in September.

An estimated cost of between 33,000 and 37,000 kroner is likely to result from the changing over of road signs, Jensen told DR.

In 2010, Aarhus Municipality’s city council voted by 17 to 10 to officially change the spelling of the name of Denmark’s second-largest city from Århus to Aarhus, dropping the Nordic letter Å and giving the name a more accessible look for international readers.

That decision was less unanimous than the one in Hov: only 33.7 percent of Aarhusianers were in favour at the time, DR reported.

READ ALSO: Ten Danish towns with hilarious literal translations

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Danish word of the day: Trivsel

A word that expresses a feeling of well-being.

Danish word of the day: Trivsel

What is trivsel? 

Trivsel is a noun which is difficult to pin to a direct English translation. It comes from the verb at trives, which is a little easier, meaning “to thrive”.

At trives is used in a broader range of situations than “thrive”, however. You can say han trives til fodbold (“he’s thriving at football practice”), but also han trives i sin nye skole.

This latter sentence literally means “he’s thriving at his new school” but doesn’t exactly mean “thriving” in the way you’d understand the word in English. As well as growing physically or mentally, trives can also mean to find yourself in a generally good situation, to feel at home in your surroundings or to be comfortable and able to develop in the work or school situation you are in.

So han trives i skolen doesn’t necessarily mean “he’s getting good marks and learning a lot at school”, although this may also be the case. Instead, it can mean something closer to “he likes his school and is happy to go there”.

Why do I need to know trivsel?

As the noun form of at trives, trivsel is normally used to describe the level of well-being of someone in a particular context. It’s common to hear it used about children and young people, but it’s not limited to that particular topic.

You might have read a sentence such as det er afgørende for børns trivsel, at man kan komme i skole og være sammen med klassekammerater (”it’s crucial for the well-being of children that they can come into school and see their classmates”) during the Covid-19 pandemic, when there was discussion about the impact of lockdowns on young people’s development and mental health.

The opposite of trivsel is mistrivsel. This is even harder to translate unless you just think of it as being an opposite. “Lack of well-being” or a “well-being deficit” loosely convey its meaning, and it can also just mean “feeling bad”.

Man risikerer mistrivsel blandt børn og unge, hvis skolerne bliver ved med at lukket på længere sigt is a negated way of saying the previous example sentence: ”You are at risk of damaging the well-being and development of children and young people if schools remain closed in the longer term”.