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DANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Danish word of the day: Langhåret

If you want to discuss topics like existentialism or the cosmos, you might find the conversation being described with today's word of the day.

What is langhåret?

An adjective literally meaning ‘longhaired’, langhåret has two meanings: its literal one and a figurative one. 

While using langhåret to describe, well, long hair, is entirely normal and frequent in Danish conversation, the figurative meaning also crops up from time to time.

Meaning a concept that is very abstract, philosophical, metaphysical or plain unrealistic, you’ll be most likely to hear langhåret used in academic situations. For example, if a professor is about to explain something longwinded, she might precede it by warning students that things are about to get “a little bit longhaired”.

You might not be surprised to learn that the figurative use of langhåret is thought to have emerged during the 1960s, when the stereotypical image of someone discussing metaphysical topics would probably have had long hair (as well as round glasses and a flowery shirt).

Why do I need to know langhåret?

The literal use of langhåret is probably still the most common one, so if you don’t know it can also be used figuratively, you might be thrown off a bit when someone says that your musings about the Theory of Relativity sound “longhaired”.

The above definitions suggest that it belongs in the realm of high-brow conversations and experts. But using langhåret as an adjective to describe complex ideas also carries an element of self-deprecation which seems to fit well with a mindset of not excessively building up one’s knowledge or achievements, and instead remaining modest — a known Danish social more.

READ ALSO: Five Danish social norms that might be new to newcomers

There’s no shame in saying you find something a bit “longhaired” and are therefore having trouble understanding it. If you describe something you already understand (or believe you do) as langhåret, this will be seen as a recognition of the complicated or abstract nature of the topic making it difficult to follow — not self-praise for already knowing it.

Examples

Jeg kom op i Platons hulelignelse, da jeg var til eksamen i idehistorie. Jeg sagde noget totalt langhåret, men fik heldigvis lov til at bestå.

I was asked about Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in my history of ideas exam. I said something totally longwinded and abstract but was luckily able to pass.

Det kan godt komme til at lyde lidt langhåret det her, men jeg tror, at der sker noget på et højere plan.

This is going to sound a bit metaphysical, but I believe there’s something happening on another level of reality.

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DANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Danish word of the day: Overordnet

We'll try to give you an overarching explanation of today's word of the day.

Danish word of the day: Overordnet

What is overordnet?

While we covered the meaning of over previously (spoiler: it means “over”), you’ll also need the translation of the verb at ordne to get a sense of how to use overordnet.

Because it has its roots in Latin, at ordne (from the Latin “ordinare”) is easy enough to understand for an English speaker. When used in Danish, it signifies to sort, place in a correct order, tidy or fix something. It can also mean to take care of a problem, conflict or situation: Lejligheden sejlede da jeg kom hjem, så jeg ordnede den lige hurtigt (“the apartment was a mess when I came home, so I gave it a quick sort-out”).

Getting back to overordnet, which is an adjective in the form of a past-tense verb, the prefix suggests something ahead in a certain order. In other words, overordnet can be someone of a higher rank, such as in the military or at a work place.

It can also mean a higher meaning or context, similar to how you might use “overall” in English — an overordnet strategi, for example, can be a company’s long-term business model, around which it builds its more immediate aims.

Why do I need to know overordnet?

While it’s a good example of an adjective that is formed from a rarely-used verb (at overordne), it’s also a word that will help you to convey nuance and give sentences in spoken Danish a sense of articulacy (provided you don’t overuse it, then you might end up sounding like a proponent of ‘management speak‘).

You can some up your thoughts on a certain subject by saying overordnet set (approximately, “generally speaking”) or say that you have been thinking up an overordnet plan (“overall plan”).

Like all good “over” words, overordnet has and “under”-based antonym. Underordnet is an even more expressive word than its superior (in a literal sense) opposite, and is usually used to dismiss something as irrelevant: det er underordnet, om det tager fem minutter eller en time, bare jeg får tid til en gåtur hver dag (“it doesn’t matter whether it takes five minutes or an hour, as long as I get a chance to take a walk every day”).

Examples

Jeg forstår ikke, den overordnede betydning med universet.

I don’t understand the overall meaning of the universe.

Jeg kan desværre ikke svare på dit spørgsmål, inden jeg har talt med min overordnede.

I’m afraid I can’t answer your question until I’ve spoken with my superior.

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