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DANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Danish word of the day: Træls

For one of those days when things just aren’t going your way.

What is træls? 

Træls belongs to local dialects in Jutland, although it’s also very common to hear it in Copenhagen – not least because of all the “eksiljyder” or “exile Jutes” who relocate from Jutland to the capital to study or work.

It may have roots in the old Norse word træl, which, according to the dictionary, was used to describe people who were captured on Viking raids in other countries and then brought back to Viking Scandinavia and forced into labour.

A related verb, at trælle, meaning to work hard under appalling conditions, is an archaic term that can be found in Danish translations of the Bible.

The modern træls does not have such dark connotations and is used as an adjective to describe something annoying, tiresome, exasperating, inconvenient or just plain boring.

Why do I need to know træls?

If you want to throw a regional word into your everyday Danish to try and sound like a local, træls is probably the best choice of all.

It will be understood by everyone and people in Jutland in particular will be impressed at your use of local slang. This applies with Danes of all ages, since træls is a word used by all generations (but is probably a bit more popular with older age groups).

It’s a light word that can be used seriously or ironically to describe a situation. You can also call a person træls if they are a bit of a drag. Although calling someone træls to their face is possibly the only way you could use the word to cause offence.

Pronunciation

Træls is not the easiest word to pronounce because of the ‘r’, which is pronounced as a guttural r sound from the back of the throat. Think of how ‘r’ is spoken in French when it occurs in the middle of a word (like “Paris”) – it’s more or less the same in many Danish words, including træls.

The ‘æ’ in this word sounds close to a regular ‘a’, giving us “trra-l-s”.

Examples

Jeg får altid tekniske problemer med min email og skal oprette et nyt kodeord. Det er virkelig træls.

I keep getting technical problems with my email and have to reset the password. It’s very annoying.

Nu bliver vejret koldt og gråt igen. Det synes jeg er træls.

The weather is getting cold and grey again. I find it dull.

Christian afbryder hele tiden, når jeg holder oplæg. Jeg synes han er træls.

Christian always interrupts when I’m giving a presentation. I think he’s a bore.

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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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