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DANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Danish expression of the day: Hulter til bulter

This expression is neither here nor there, but it could be everywhere.

What is hulter til bulter? 

We usually begin our word of the day explanations by providing translations of the words that make up the expression or compound word that is the focus of the day’s article.

That’s a bit difficult to do with hulter til bulter, because apart from the preposition til (‘to’ or ‘for’ depending on context), the words don’t mean anything.

Neither hulter nor bulter appears independent of each other as a word with a distinct meaning or in any other expression, anywhere in the Danish language.

The phrase is thought to have originated from nonsense words that were paired together, possibly in German or Dutch, because they make a funny sound.

Getting around to the meaning: when something (usually a group of things) are described as hulter til bulter, they are very untidy or disorganised. Objects in a room can be left hulter til bulter, as can a piece of work that requires well organised elements to be gathered together.

Why do I need to know hulter til bulter?

It’s a good way of expressing your dissatisfaction with a scene of chaos that needs tidying and reorganising without sounding overly agitated.

There are other expressions that use nonsense, sometimes onomatopoeic words to form an expression in this way. A possible example in English is ‘helter skelter’.       

In Danish, you can say på må og få (‘at random’), hist og her (’here and there’) and ditten og datten (‘this and that’).

These make similar use of nonsensical words to form a phrase, but are a bit easier to trace to real words and so their meanings are perhaps a little more obvious if you’ve not come across them before.

Examples

Kan vi ikke få ryddet op lidt herinde? Der ligger ting og sager hulter til bulter.

Can we please tidy up a bit in here? There are bits and pieces strewn all over the place.

Jeg tog mine noter frem, men der var ingen orden i tingene. Jeg havde skrevet nærmest tilfældige tanker hulter til bulter på papiret.

I took out my notes but there was no order to them. I’d scribbled almost random thoughts here and there across the paper.

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DANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Danish word of the day: Uoverskuelig

For when you just can't deal.

Danish word of the day: Uoverskuelig

What is uoverskuelig? 

This word contains skuelig, a substantive from of the verb at skue, which means “to view” but is not common in spoke Danish, where at se på or at kigge på (“to look at” in both cases) are more likely to be used to refer to looking at or viewing something.

At skue is often used in a more literary sense and can be compared to saying “consider” or “regard” when talking about looking at something. If you “cast your eyes upon” an object or landscape, you skuer it.

With the prefix over- , overskuelig means something that is possible to get a clear view of, to comprehend its full extent. Figuratively, this means to fully understand, master and be in control of something – not just to look at it.

The negation particle u reverses this meaning, giving you something that is hard to comprehend or deal with, so much so that you don’t really know where to start.

Why do I need to know uoverskuelig? 

It’s a curious and very commonly used word but one that is notoriously difficult to translate accurately into English.

As a side point, I think the double vowel at the start gives it a nice aesthetic. Lots of negated words are like this – uuholdelig (“unbearable”) and uafbrudt (“uninterrupted”) to name a couple of examples.

If you have a task – or more broadly, a day – ahead of you that you just don’t feel you have the energy or knowledge to deal with, you can say it’s uoverskuelig. In verb form, jeg kan ikke overskue means the same thing – approximately, “I can’t deal/cope with”.

Not being able to overskue something can be related to its size or complexity, but can also reflect your own condition – if you are feeling extremely tired, even a trip to the supermarket can be uoverskuelig.

It is also commonly used without the negation: Kan du stå for aftensmaden i dag? – Ja, det kan jeg godt overskue (“Can you take care of dinner today? – Yes, I can handle it”).

Examples

Jeg skal have kigget min forskudsopgørelse igennem, men det er lidt uoverskueligt.

I need to look through my tax return, but it’s quite complex.

Jeg kan aldrig overskue at tage på arbejde om mandagen.

I never feel like going to work on Mondays.

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