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DANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Danish word of the day: Fornem

Add a touch of class to your vocabulary with today’s word.

What is fornem? 

The adjective fornem has its roots the in Lower German word vorneme, and thereby makes use of for, a suffix which often means “before” or “in front of”.

Nehmen is “to take” in German, with connotations of being something you choose in preference to something else. For example, when ordering a coffee to-go in German you can say mitnehmen, “to take with”.

The meaning of fornem has a few nuances, all related to being something respectable or of high quality.

It can be used to describe someone who excels in their field in the same way you might say “a prominent researcher” in English. Close to this, it can be a thing recognised as the pinnacle of its type: the Opera House in Copenhagen might be described as blandt Københavns fornemste bygninger (“among Copenhagen’s finest buildings”).

You could also have the pleasure of visiting et fornemt sted (“an upmarket place”) like a fine dining restaurant.

The word has a homograph to be aware of to avoid confusion: the imperative form of the verb at fornemme (“to sense”) is fornem. They are pronounced differently (more on pronunciation below): the adjective places stress on the first syllable, the verb on the second syllable.

Why do I need to know fornem?

In addition to the meanings above, it can be used as a disarming compliment or way of saying thank you to someone.

For example, if you place an order at a café and the bar staff bring it over to where you are sitting, you can tell them you consider their service fornem by saying something like det er fornemt, tak (“that’s very classy, thank you”).

If you are invited to a meal at the house of a friend or family member, you can complement the host when you see the prepared meal ready at the table by saying ej, hvor fornemt (“ooh, it looks classy”) or det ser fornemt ud (“this looks very fancy”).

Pronunciation

Approximate pronunciation: Place the stress on the first syllable and pronounce as it is spelt: “Four-nem”.

Examples

Jeg var på rundtur ved Amalienborg Slot forleden. Det hele var ekstremt fornemt.

I went on a guided tour of Amalienborg Palace the other day. It was all extremely posh.

Tak for fornem service.

Thank you for the excellent service.

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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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