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DANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Danish expression of the day: At slå på tråden

Give us a ring and we'll tell you about the word of the day.

What is at slå på tråden?

The literal meaning of this phrase is “to hit on the thread”. Of course, it has nothing to do with making flirtatious advances towards a piece of string, or striking some yarn, but figuratively means to make a telephone call.

Given the informal, familiar tone of the expression, it can be thought of as a Danish equivalent to “give you a call”, “ring me”, “give me a bell” or any other way you can think of saying “make a telephone call”.

Why do I need to know at slå på tråden?

It’s a phrase that is still used in everyday conversation, although perhaps more so by older generations. But what makes at slå på tråden (in my opinion) a charming expression is the fact that it is technologically obsolete.

This is because it comes from the use of cables (another meaning of the word tråd, although kabel is also used for “cable”) in old-fashioned telephone connections, or even from pre-telephone times.

The expression is said to have its roots in times when a telegraph operator would send a message by tapping morse code signals, which were transmitted as electrical impulses through cables. So you would have literally had to “hit a cable” if you wanted to send a message.

The modern equivalent of morse code — an SMS — is now wireless, just like phone calls. But the phrase at slå på tråden endures despite the fact it will make little sense to those who have only seen a cable attached to a phone when it is charging.

Examples

Vi kan lige mødes til en øl på fredag. Jeg slår på tråden, når jeg får fri.

We can meet for a quick beer on Friday. I’ll give you a ring when I get off work.

Slå lige på tråden, når du er kommet godt hjem.

Give me a quick call when you’ve arrived home safely.

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For members

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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