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DANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Danish word of the day: Håndsrækning

We’re reaching out to you with another Danish word.

What is håndsrækning? 

En håndsrækning, literally “a reaching out of the hand”, comes from hånd, “hand”, and ‘rækning’.

‘Rækning’ does not exist as a standalone word but comes from the verb at række. This is an interesting word because it can mean both to reach out and grab something or to pass something to somebody else.

For example, you can say jeg rækker ud efter saltet (”I am stretching across to take the salt”) and hun rækker mig saltet (“she is passing me the salt”).

In both cases, the meaning is associated with a reaching or stretching motion. Række can also have more abstract meanings, such as in gaslagrene rækker nok ikke hele vinteren, (“gas stocks probably won’t last all winter”).

You can also række hånden op (“put your hand up”) or række fingeren i vejret (“put your finger up in the air”) to answer a teacher’s question at school.

At række fuckfingeren is a common way of saying “giving the bird” or “giving the middle finger”. It should be noted that the word “fuck” is a swear word in Danish but is considered a far milder form of curse than it is in English.

READ ALSO: Why you shouldn’t be surprised to hear Danish children say the F word

Why do I need to know håndsrækning?

The literal meaning of “reaching out a hand” is not how you are most likely to hear or use håndsrækning. Rather, it is usually deployed to describe help or support that is offered in a difficult situation.

This makes its meaning closer to “helping hand” in English, but not “holding out an olive branch” which is associated with reconciliation.

If you want to offer someone a hand with their work, however, it is probably better to more closely match the English phrase by saying vil du have en hånd? (“do you want a hand?”).

Håndsrækning is a usually used to talk about an offer of help, rather than during the actual process of making the offer.

Pronunciation

The ‘å’ in this word is one of the Danish vowels that doesn’t exist in English, but is quite close to a strong ‘o’ like in the British received pronunciation of words like ‘hop’ or ‘bottom’ (first ‘o’). The ‘d’ is silent but followed by a glottal stop, like in an earlier word we described, hund.

Roughly, you can pronounce this word “hon-s rak ning”.

Examples

Regeringens forslag er en håndsrækning til borgere, der er ramt af høje energipriser.

The government’s proposal is a helping hand to residents affected by high energy prices.

Der skal mere end en håndsrækning til, hvis alle borgere skal have råd til de dyre energiregninger, mener oppositionen.

More than just a helping hand is needed if all the population is to be able to afford expensive energy bills, according to the opposition.

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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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