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Danish expression of the day: Så er den ged barberet

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Danish expression of the day: Så er den ged barberet

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash and Nicolas Raymond/FlickR

If you’re happy about ticking items off your to-do list, this Danish expression will get the job done.

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What is så er den ged barberet? 

This phrase translates literally to “now that goat is shaved”.

Saying den ged (“that goat”) in preference to the regular definitive form, geden (“the goat”) conveys emphasis. In other words, ‘that’ goat has finally been shaved, as opposed to any other goat that needed shaving (or shearing?).

You might say så er den ged barberet if you’ve completed a challenging task, one that has demanded considerable effort or that has taken a long time. The expression carries a sense of both relief and satisfaction about getting this particular job out of the way.

Why do I need to know så er den ged barberet?

The ‘shaving’ in this expression can probably be thought of as shearing – it’s fair to assume we are talking about an animal having its fur sheared, not a goat receiving a designer trim of its facial hair.

However, if you wanted to say “shear a sheep” in Danish, you would say at klippe et får: “Shearing” does not have a specific verb like it does in English, but you would normally use the verb for “cut” (at klippe), and not the one for “shave” (at barbere).

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As such, there’s an element of farce in this expression, which is relatively new and not recorded anywhere prior to the late 1990s. Comedian Viggo Sommer released an album by the name Så Sku' Den Ged Vist Være Barberet in 2002, which may have helped with the popularity of the phrase.

Sommer is one-third of the comedy group “De Nattergale”, whose most famous work is the 1991 Christmas advent series The Julekalender, in which characters speak an absurd mash-up of English and Danish. So he has a track record for language-based humour.

Its origins aside, this phrase is an ideal way to mark an accomplishment while staying on the self-deprecating side, in keeping with the humility inherent in Danish culture.

Examples

Så er den ged barberet! Endelig fik jeg afleveret min PhD-afhandling.

The goat is shaved! I’ve finally handed in my PhD doctorate.

Hjemmeholdet scorede fire mål inden pausen, og så var den ged barberet.

The home team scored four goals before half time, and that was the match done and dusted.

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