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DANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Danish word of the day: Tosomhed

The Danish language has a word that could be considered an opposite of 'loneliness', and its range of uses is surprisingly broad.

What is tosomhed?

The Danish word for loneliness is ensomhed. It can literally be translated as “onesomeness”, and describes the feeling of loneliness or feeling alone. The adjective is ensom, so if you want to say that you feel lonely, you’d say jeg føler mig ensom.

While ensomhed and ensom refer to involuntary, loneliness – saying jeg bor alene (“I live alone”) does not necessarily mean that you are unhappy about this situation. Jeg føler mig ensom (“I feel lonely”), on the other hand, implies that you don’t really want to be alone.

The word ensomhed is made up of ensom – lonely, which in turn comes from en or “one” – as well as hed, a suffix similar to German -heit which can be loosely translated as “-ness” in English. Other examples of words made up of a Danish adjective with the suffix -hed are nyhed (“news”, literally “new-ness”), frihed (“freedom”, literally “free-ness”) and hemmelighed (“a secret”, literally “secret-ness”).

We’re about to reach the word that is the subject of today’s article: Danish, unlike English, also has a word for being alone with another person: tosomhed or “twosomeness”, which can describe the feeling of being a couple or “twosome”.

Why do I need to know tosomhed?

The use of tosomhed in conversation can be either positive or negative – it can be the feeling of being part of a team, sharing a life together, or it can describe a couple who spend so much time with each other that it is detrimental to their other social relationships. Or, as the Danish dictionary puts it, two people who “live together or are in each other’s company for better or worse”.

Those on the lookout for a partner may say they miss the feeling of tosomhed from sharing their life with someone else, or those recently out of a relationship may describe choosing to go it alone after experiencing that the tosomhed stifled their own independence.

In either case, it’s perhaps not surprising that the concept is identifiable enough to have its own word in Danish. According to European statistics, Danes have the third-highest rate of single-person households in the EU, behind Sweden and Finland. 

Examples

Jeg kan godt forstå, at Rachel blev træt af at se på Ross og Julie. Der gik simpelthen for meget tosomhed i det.

I understand why Rachel got fed up with seeing Ross and Julie together. There was just too much twosomeness going on.

Selvom alenetid betyder meget for mig, er der intet, der kan slå følelsen af tosomhed.

Although I value my ‘me time’, nothing beats the feeling of being at one with another person.

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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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