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How to count in Danish.

November 2, 2017 | Leave a comment

How to count in Danish

(also known as ‘how to confuse Swedes’)

While the Scandi languages are very close – we can all understand most of each other’s languages, especially after a few beers – there are certain areas where things just stumble and everybody is left lost. This causes all sorts of awkward situations. One such subject is counting in Danish numbers, because Danes count in something called vigesimal – which is basically counting in twenties rather than tens (not dissimilar to the French).

First, the basics: The ones, then the tens…

In Danish: En, to, tre, fire, fem, seks, syv, otte, ni, ti.

Swedish and Norwegian follows a logic structure of counting:

10 in Swedish is Tio. Twenty is Tjugo. Thirty is Tretio. Forty is Firtio. Fifty is Femtio. You see where we’re going with this – logically, adding ten (tio) on the end. It’s similar in Norwegian.

Now, the same in Danish: The singles are fine – and then…

10 = Ti
20 = Tyve
30 = Tredive
40 = Fyrre
50 = Halvtreds
60 = Tres
70 = Halvfjers
80 = Firs
90 = Halvfems
100 = Et hundrede

To understand, we need to look at the old word sinde, which meant ‘times’ (as in ‘multiply’).

We also need to understand that the root of the numbers work on twenties rather than tens. So, 60 is tres – coming from tre(3)-sinde-tyve(20)=tresindetyve=tres(60), [shortened to tres].

Eighty follows similar patterns, as it is of course 4 time 20 = fire(4)-sinde-tyve(20)=firsindetyve=firs(80)

Still with it? Okay, let’s complicate it a bit now. The halves.

Halv 3 = 2½, halv 4 = 3½, halv 5 = 4½
This means you take the twenties and then half of twenty, for example:
50 is Halvtreds = 2 x 20 + 10 (the half) = halvtredje-sinde-tyve – shortened to halvtreds (50).

70 is Halvfjers = 3 x 20 + 10 (the half) = halvfjerde-sinde-tyve – shortened to halvfjerds (70).

90 is Halvfems = 4 x 20 + 10 (the half) = halvfem-sinde-tyve – shortened to halvfems (90).

Still here?

Now remember that no Danes will ever count in the full words – they will only use the shortened version. Also, few Danes understand the logic behind the numbering system, meaning some teachers find it hard to teach maths to younger children, due to this structure – let alone explain it to a foreinger, let alone a drunk Swede stranded in a bar in Copenhagen trying to pay for his beer.

Also, just in case you need something else to set the system aside from say Swedish: In Swedish, you count with the tens first – then the singles. Example: Femti-fyra = 54. The same number in Danish would be Fireoghalvtreds, i.e. the singular number first. So, four-and-half-twenty-times-four-and-a-half-kill-me-now.

Lastly, you need to know that the Danish numbering system is not hyphenated like it is in say, English. So, 95 in English is ninety-five, and the same number in Danish would be written femoghalvfems (five and half fives – the og (and) linking the numbers together to form the final number.

How about ordering four half threes of eggs? 54. Or maybe we’re counting the pigs on the farm – there are three half fives (93).

In short, the Danish numbering system stems from counting in twenties and half twenties – and looking to make anyone who attempts to explain it wish they had never attempted to do so.

It is a constant source of amusement and confusion to the Swedes and Norwegians that Danes can actually work out how to count in the first place.

Next week: how to say 1st, 5th, 10th, and 40th in Danish. This is when it gets really complicated.

This week’s homework: Find a Swede or Norwegian and ask him to count for you in Danish and watch him squirm with uncomfortable feelings.

How to swear in Scandinavia

January 20, 2017 | 1 Comment

How to swear (a little bit)

Look, it’s not our job to educate you on the worst swear words. That simply isn’t a nice thing to do. We do live in Britain, after all, where swearing is frowned upon. So, we’ve made a little handy list of the most common, less offensive ways to adding bad Scandi words to your everyday life, if this is what you’re after. 

You can start with these and then move on to the strong stuff, if you so fancy. These words are, by and large, relatively safe to attempt and will bring giggles from your attempts in our native languages, rather than a slap in the face. We hope.


  1. Add ‘shit’ in front of everything – the word is ‘skide’ (soft d). Anything you add ‘skide’ in front of becomes negative. Skide-work, skide-cleaning, skide-everything. Although if you add skide in front of the word ‘godt’ it means shitty-good, which is a really positive thing.
  2. Satan. The devil. ‘For Satan’ means for the devil. It’s okay to say this in front of grandma, she probably does that, too. Sentence: Aj, for Satan, hvorfor blew Trump president? (‘For the devil, how did Trump become president’?). You can also use ‘for fanden’ which means the same but it’s a nicer word to say ‘devil’ than using the name Satan. If you want to be really nice about it, replace Satan with ‘Søren’ which is a guy’s name. Poor Søren.
  3. Kraftedeme. This is a baddie that you shouldn’t really use because it literally means ‘cancer eat me’ – it’s awful to say such a thing, so people don’t. Except they do when they forget what it really means, because its such an old saying that people don’t always remember. Used to emphasise a point, as it ‘I kraftedeme don’t want to go to work to day’. People have mostly forgotten the origin of the word, so anyone who does use it likely won’t link it to illness.
  4. Pis.  This just means ‘piss’. Everything can be ‘pis’. Just used on it’s own. ‘Argh, I missed the re-run of Eurovision on telly. Pis!’
  5. Rend mig i røven! – this basically means f*ck off. Literally, it means ‘run to my ass’ but it’s used as a way to say f*ck off.

It’s worth noting that for some reason, Danes (including people on Danish radio and also really young kids – even aged around 5-6) have adopted to swearing in English, using mainly the words f*ck and sh*t. This sounds incredibly rude to a British person, but to Danes, the words means very little so they carry on and dollop a good unhealthy dose of F*ck and Sh*t in their every day language. To most ex-pat Danes returning to Denmark after a few years in Blighty, this means there is a month long period of re-adjustment where they spend most of their time in toe-cringing situations when the guy at the local super market uses the word f*ck to describe being out of bacon flavoured crisps. It is entirely normal, though, to swear in English in Denmark.

Because it has no meaning in the Danish language, kids also swear at school, at home and to their grandmother – in English. They’d likely never do it in Danish, though.

You may encounter the expression “f*ck dig” which is the Danish way of saying ‘f*ck you’, except in a way that doesn’t really mean anything.

Yes, we know. Un-curl those toes now, it is perfectly normal.


  1. Fy flate (fy faen) – literally, for devil. Meaning shock/annoyed/angry expression (like English f*ck)
  2. Dra dit peppern gror (dra til helvete) – go to hell. You’re an idiot, go where the pepper grows.
  3. Helsikken (Helvete) – Similar to fy flate, shock/angry. ‘Helsikken heller, for en smorje!’ ‘Helsikken, what a mess!’ If you want someone to go to hell, which seems to be where most angry Norwegians send people, say Kjøss katta (kiss the katt, means go to hell) – mainly in northern parts of Norway. If you’re angry at someone up north, thell them to ‘Kiss the cat!’
  4. Søren klype (F*ck sake) – Søren (the name) is a change from Satan, like in Danish.
  5. Fy Farao – similar to fy flate – fuck.
  6. Fytti katta – A version of fy faen – Fytti (from fy, meaning bad/shame), the -tti added for emphasis or it could be for linguistic reasons, ending on -tti easier in many cases. Katta – the cat. So, here’s the cat again and this time he’s very bad. Similar to ‘f*ck’ – if your angry, ‘Fytti katta’.
All three languages have many similarities in their daily swearing and it is easy to see how connected we all are when you look at our less nice ways of saying things.
  1. Fan – the devil. Used all the time by Swedes. You may also hear Satan, which is stronger, but fan is everyday cursing. Is it bad? No, your boss might well use Fan. And your mother.
  2. Helvete – hell. Again, quite a normal ‘nice’ swear word in Swedish, that just means ‘hell’. Add it together with ‘fan’, though and you have a stronger curse – För fan i helvete! – For the devil in hell! – which would be ‘You missed the bus? For the devil in hell, how annoying’. ‘Dra åt helvete!’ means ‘go to hell’.
  3. Jävla – damn. Used in every day speak, it literally roots in ‘devil’, too. Yes, Scandinavians mainly swear about the devil, have you noticed? You can add jävla to everything. Jävla this and jävla that. Not too strong.  It’s usually the only Swedish curse words the Danes will know so they will add it to say ‘Jävla Svenskar’ and mutter this under their breath when they encounter a drunk Swede in a bar in Copenhagen. It makes them feel like they speak fluent Swedish and that the message has been well and truly delivered (Yes, we know. Sigh. But Danes…) ‘Din jävla idiot!’ is more freely translated: ‘You stupid idiot!’
  4. Skit. This means sh*t. Exactly like the Danish ‘skid’, except in Swedish, Skid mean to ski and has nothing to do with sh*t, but it does confuse Danes when they go skiing in Sweden and there are signs for the Skidskola (sh*t-school), but that’s another story altogether. Just as in Danish, ‘skit’ can use use in front of any word to make it negative (skit också – sh*t too) etc – and if you add ‘bra’ – which means ‘good’ – in front, meaning ‘really great’ (lit:  ‘shit-great’).
  5. Skitstövel: Lit. ‘shit-boot’. Offensive term used to describe a person, like “as*hole”, “f*cker”, or ‘bastard’.
  6. More specific words that are not nice include rövhul (asshole), kuk (c*ck), knullare (f*cker).
    It’s worth mentioning that both Swedes and Norwegians will also use English curse words frequently, but no where near as frequent as the Danish use them.

And that concludes our short helpful curse guide. We accept no responsibility for people getting annoyed with you for swearing in our languages.

17 Little ways to annoy a Scandinavian person

October 16, 2014 | 49 Comments

So, if you happen to work next to one of us and we have irritated you by borrowing your stapler one too many times, here are little ways you can get back at us.

1. Claim that Sweden, Norway and Denmark is all the same


Scandinavia is Denmark, Sweden and Norway. That’s it. Different countries, different languages, different cultures with some similarities. Finland is sometimes included, but officially, it’s not really Scandinavia.

And no, it’s not because we are small countries, either – you can fit the UK into Scandinavia about five times. So why do you still insist on telling us we’re all the same?

2. When you don’t remove your shoes before entering our house


Because we don’t like dirt being dragged all over the house. Except when there’s a party (although, please ask first and never wear heels on our nice wooden floors).

When you go to a Scandinavian house, expect to remove your shoes in the hallway. It will happen, unless we’re feeling too polite to mention it (unlikely: we’re quite direct, if you hadn’t noticed).

3. What? You don’t like COFFEE?


We drink more coffee than anyone else in the whole world. More than the Italians, more than the French… More than anyone. By quite a massive stretch, too.

We drink tons of it. Strong, delicious filter coffee. And we don’t understand why you can only have one cup a day when our veins are constantly pumping like a bad Basshunter tune. In short, we’re wired from morning to night.

4. Insist Danes are Dutch


Far, far away. Not even neighbours.

5. …and Swedes are Swiss

(wait, Switzerland is next to Norway, right?)


Switzerland is Central Europe. They speak 5 languages, none of which are even close to Swedish. Nothing to do with ABBA or Volvo or blondes.

6. Enter into a discussion with us about mixer taps versus single taps.


We will win that discussion. Even if you fight it, we will win it – passionately. There is no way you can win an argument with about the benefit of single taps. We invented Ikea, we are the kings of common sense design.

And don’t start on the carpet in the bathroom…

7. Tell a Norwegian that KitKats are better than KvikkLunsj


This is such an important point, even though it only really affects Norway. KitKats are so not even close to Kvikklunsj. Don’t compare them, don’t tell us KitKats are superior. Don’t go there.

8. Insist that Eurovision is crap, when we know that it clearly is one of the highlights of the year – alongside Christmas and Midsummer.

TO GO WITH AFP PHOTO "Entertainment-Swed

Without Eurovision, you’d have no songs to dance to at the office party. No Dancing Queen, no Mamma Mia, no Money Money Money. Don’t knock it: We gave cheese to you guys. Be grateful.

9. Do you have polar bears in Oslo?

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Yes, of course we do. And also roaming the streets of Copenhagen. Some of us keep them as pets, next to our penguins.

10. When you sing the Swedish Chef song from Muppets.

Just don’t.

Say ‘bork, bork, bork’ and we die a little bit inside.

11. Well, you don’t LOOK Swedish/Norwegian/Danish…


I don’t? And you don’t look Welsh, either.

12. “You’re Swedish? I used to have a Danish girlfriend once…”

Wonderful. Read point one.

13. Schedule conference calls at 11 a.m. (our lunchtime)

We have lunch between 11 am and midday, if you let us. We just do.

Try not to interfere with our weirdness about breaks. This also includes trying to interfere with our need for coffee breaks (fika breaks) at least twice a day: One must make time for cake & coffee breaks.

14. Ask us ‘How are you’ and don’t wait for our answer.

Because, trust us, we WILL answer. In great detail and we don’t understand how to read your polite British nods of evil as we explain about our dodgy knee.

You don’t want to know about out knee? Don’t ask us, we won’t mind. It will remove a lot of social awkwardness for us if we just skip  the ‘how are you’ bit.

15. Be late. We hate lateness. Be on time, every time.


16. You’re cold? But you’re Scandinavian!

Yes, and we feel cold. Just like you. Our veins are not made of ice, they are filled with hot Basshunter coffee, remember?

17. Scandinavian? Do you eat herring, like, all the time?

Every day, all the time, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

(Just kidding: we only eat herring for lunch).

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