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DANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Danish word of the day: Myrepatter

If you want to describe the sensation of a tingle down your spine or are feeling unseasonably cold, you'll be needing today's word of the day.

What are myrepatter?

Myre is the Danish word for ants. 

Patter needs a slightly longer explanation. While its original meaning is the nipple on animals’ udders, it has also become a (now outdated and politically incorrect) slang term for breasts. It’s also worth noting that the Danish word for mammal is pattedyr, literally meaning animals that can secrete milk to feed their young.

An ant is, of course, an insect and not a mammal, so the word myrepatter in itself is an oxymoron. As such, it’s unsurprising to hear that it doesn’t have a literal meaning, but is the equivalent of the English ‘goosebumps’: the feeling of raised hairs or tiny bumps on your skin in response to an exciting experience or feeling particularly cold.

Why do I need to know myrepatter?

‘Goosebumps’ in fact has a closer Danish counterpart than myrepatter. Gåsehud, literally ‘goose skin’ is used in the same contexts — experiencing tiny bumps on the skin when experiencing a breathtaking or surprising moment, or when very cold.

The two Danish words are exact synonyms as far as we can tell, but given that myrepatter is less recognisable from English, you might impress a little more with your Danish knowledge if you use it.

You might come across patter and connected words like yver, meaning udder and (bryst)vorte, which means nipple but also wart, in an agricultural context, but are less likely to do so in general conversation.

Examples

Jeg fik myrepatter over hele kroppen, da Nick Cave gik på Orange Scene på Roskilde Festival.

I had goosebumps all over when Nick Cave went on the main stage at the Roskilde Festival.

Det var en kæmpe fejl at gå en tur uden vinterjakke, selvom det er april. Det var så iskoldt, at jeg fik myrepatter.

It was a huge mistake to go for a walk without my winter coat on, even though it’s April. It was so freezing cold out that I got goosebumps.

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DANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Danish expression of the day: Det ligner

It looks like an obvious choice for the word of the day. But is it?

Danish expression of the day: Det ligner

What is det ligner?

The verb at ligne is another example of a word that enables Danes to say something in fewer words than the equivalent sentence in English.

Meaning “to look like”, it normally has a straightforward use: han ligner sin mor, for example: “he looks like his mother”.

Arguably, there is an English verb directly equivalent to at ligne which would allow you to say the above sentence in neither more nor fewer words than the Danish version. “He resembles his mother” would also be an acceptable translation of han ligner sin mor. 

Despite this, I’d argue “looks like” is more accurate in most situations and contexts, because at ligne does not have the formal feel of written language that “resemble” conjures up.

Why do I need to know det ligner?

When you put the pronoun det (“it”) in front of the verb, making it “it looks like”, the use of at ligne can take on a different meaning.

In the sentence det ligner at det bliver regnvejr hele weekenden (“it looks like it will rain all weekend”), ligner drops its equivalence to “resemble” and, similar to “looks like”, can be used to make a prediction.

According to language regulator Dansk Sprognævn, this alternative use of det ligner has emerged in the last 20-25 years. That being the case, you could speculate that it has occurred as a result of an English phrase being adopted in Danish, even though it makes less sense in Danish in its original guise.

This is not necessarily true. Another way of talking about an uncertain future event in Danish is to say det ser ud til, approximately “it looks as though”. Det ser ud til at det bliver regnvejr is, in fact, probably closer to “it looks like it will rain” than any translation that uses det ligner.

Nevertheless, det ligner is a concise way of talking about something that looks likely to happen in the future. You would normally say it based on some form of evidence, rather than your own instinct: in the examples above, darkening grey clouds on the horizon would probably get people saying det ligner regnvejr.

Examples

Det lignede en sikker sejr for hjemmeholdet, men så lukkede de tre mål ind i anden halvleg.

It looked like a comfortable victory for the home team, but they conceded three goals in the second half.

Er du okay? Du ligner slet ikke dig selv.

Are you ok? You don’t look yourself at all.

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