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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

Danish word of the day: Jævndøgn

The light and the dark side are now in balance.

Danish word of the day: Jævndøgn

What is jævndøgn?

Jævndøgn the term used to describe the spring (forårsjævndøgn) and autumn (efterårsjævndøgn) equinoxes.

On the day of an equinox, daytime and nighttime are of approximately equal duration (this is true at the same time all over the planet, not just in Denmark).

The word used in English, equinox, comes from Latin: aequus (equal) and nox (night). The Danish term is directly related to Old English and Norse. Jævn is an adjective similar to “even” and can be used to describe a physical quality (en jævn overflade is “an even surface”), as well as to mean “equal”.

While jævn is “equal” when talking about the equinox and in various other formulations related to measurement, a different word, lighed or ligestilling, is used to mean “equality”.

Døgn is a useful Danish word that doesn’t have an exact English translation but can both mean “a day” or “a 24-hour period”. It’s usually used in preference to the more common dag (“day”) when talking about the amount of time within a day, and not to the day in general.

For example, a store that is open 24 hours a day is described as døgnåbent, “24-hour-open”. If you arbejder døgnet rundt you work all hours of the day.

Putting jævn and døgn together gives you the Danish word for equinox, jævndøgn, literally “equal 24-hours”.

Why do I need to know jævndøgn?

September 23rd (sometimes 22nd) is the autumn equinox. From that date onwards, days include more dark minutes than light ones.

The longest night of the year will fall on December 21st, the winter solstice, when Denmark can expect 17 hours of darkness. The Danish word for solstice is solhverv, from sol (sun) and hverv, an archaic word for “turning”.

On March 20th the spring equinox or forårsjævndøgn, things switch back as spring approaches and there is once again more light than dark.

Pronunciation

The “j” in jævn is pronounced like the “y” in “yellow and the “v” as a “w”, giving you “yæwn”.

To say døgn, imagine you are saying “boy” but replacing the b with a d. Then add an “n” at the end.

Example

I dag er det jævndøgn, hvor dag og nat er lige lange.

Today is the equinox, when day and night are the same length.

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