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Danish word of the day: Gåseøjne

Today's word is a punctuation mark named after a part of an animal.

What is gåseøjne?

gås is a “goose” (like the English word, it has an irregular plural: gæs is the Danish word for “geese”).

Øjne, meanwhile means “eyes” and is itself an irregular plural of øje, “eye”.

The two words together make the compound noun gåseøjne, which literally means “goose eyes” as you’d expect from the above. However, it also means “quotation marks” or “speech marks”.

It’s difficult to find a clear explanation for this odd use of an animal’s body part to describe punctuation. 

Written Danish, particularly literature, often uses punctation marks termed Guillemets (also known as pointed characters) instead of the single or double quote marks seen in English. So “quote” would be written in Danish as »citat«, for example. Although it’s not the same spelling, a Guillemot is the name of a species of sea bird, giving us another avian connection.

A 2013 article by Kristeligt Dagblad states that “at one time, in weaving, a pattern was made that looked like goose eyes, and it is these patterns that inspired (the term for speech marks)”.

Another possible explanation, the article continues, is that quote marks are “punctuation that of themselves are empty, bringing us back to the notion that geese are stupid and empty-headed”.

Why do I need to know gåseøjne?

There are two other words also used in Danish to describe speech or quote marks. These are anførselstegn and citationstegn. Like in English, they are used as punctuation to mark speech, quotes, or a phrase in text.

Gåseøjne is probably the most common of the three words in spoken Danish and it’s common to hear it in speech where someone, if they were saying the same thing in English, might use the “air quotes” gesture (holding up the forefinger and middle finger of both hands and wagging them) to indicate speech marks in a sentence. Hopefully, the examples below will illustrate this.


Det burde ikke gå ud over almindelig mennesker, altså i gåseøjne, når man hæver topskatten.

It shouldn’t have a negative effect on [speech marks] normal people when the top tax rate is raised.

Christian sagde, han skulle sidde på en bar hele aftenen for at studere (i gåseøjne).

Christian said he was going to spend the whole evening “studying” at a bar.

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Danish word of the day: Nar

Have a look at the word of the day. You'd be a fool not to.

Danish word of the day: Nar

What is nar?

The original meaning of the word nar is similar to the English ‘jester’: a person who entertains the public or an audience by making a fool of themselves or of others.

Its use evolved at some point in the past — not recently, as it’s been around for a while — and it is now an insult. So if you call someone a nar you are slighting them and they are likely to be offended, as it’s not a word that is usually used lightheartedly, unlike some old-fashioned insults can be.

To call someone a nar, by the way, the correct phrase is din nar. This literally means “your nar“, because din is a possessive adjective or pronoun (like ‘your’ or ‘yours’). However, din nar actually means “you are a nar“. The same grammar applies with all insults: din idiot, dit fjols, din taber (you idiot, you fool, you loser) or din klovn (you clown). The latter is a slightly milder synonym of din nar.

Why do I need to know nar?

It’s a punchy putdown, but as mentioned above — be careful how you use it. It’s not really a word you can use in jest. As such, you’ll probably hear it used more often to talk about someone in the third person than aimed directly at someone.

Nar is also used in a variety of phrases to mean variations of being made a fool out of or being tricked.

For example, at gøre nar af (“to make a nar of”) someone is to make them the object of ridicule or to make fun of them. If you holder nogen for nar (“treat someone as a nar“) you could either be scamming or tricking them or, similarly to before, making them look stupid.


Han går hele tiden rundt og lyver over for folk. Han er simpelthen en nar!

He just goes around lying to everyone. He’s nothing but an asshole!

Hvorfor har du spist min sandwich? Der stod mit navn på papiret. Din nar!

Why did you eat my sandwich? My name was written on the package. You idiot!