September 16, 2007

Variations

I spend my days among Swedes and Danes and they provide endless entertainment with their variations on English. There are some words that have rhythms that are practically impossible for Scandinavians. Hippopotamus. They would like to pronounce it as if it were a Greek philosopher, hippopo-TAM-oos. Catastrophe. Here the problem is a similar word in their own language that is pronounced kata-STROPHE.

Another confoundation is that Swedes don't make a distinction between 'v' and 'w'. To them, a 'w' is a noble 'v', important enough to merit being written twice. An example is the 'Wiking Cafe'.

There are some word pairs that they have a hard time distinguishing.

schmoozing v. smooching
beer v. bear
sue v. zoo

This can create unnecessary confusion if for example you tell your wife that you were shmoozing with a bear at the zoo.

4 Comments:

At September 17, 2007 6:01 PM , Anonymous Tim said...

I sat next to a German woman during a fund raising drive once. We were selling a video. She kept saying, "vood you like to buy our wideo about nuclear vepons"? I could not concentrate.

what does the term zweiback mean in Denmark? I always thought it was a kind of bread, but now I realize it means twice-baked.

 
At September 18, 2007 2:19 PM , Blogger rigtenzin said...

This is the sort of stuff that entertains me daily. I love to listen to non-native English speakers.

I have to be careful though, because some people might take my enjoyment as racism or elitism or some other ism.

 
At September 18, 2007 8:39 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

The Swedes call zweiback 'skorpor' which means crusts. They use the same word for scabs. We used to have skorpor around the house a lot until Karin found out the ones we were buying had lots of trans fat.
I'll have to find out what the Danes do. There are more German loan words in Danish, combined with more antipathy for things Deutch, so who knows whether they say zweiback or not.

 
At September 18, 2007 8:44 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

You should come for a visit rigtenzin, you'd find lots of entertainment. Like every day when the train gets to Copenhagen the conductor says some elegant things in Danish and then has to fight with every word to say the same thing in English. I have to pin myself to the seat so I don't grab the mike and make the announcement for him, just to get it over with.

 

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