Friday, March 30, 2012

False friends in Dutch and Norwegian

(Artwork: Revilo.)

WARNING: naughty words ahead.

This one's for Norwegians and Dutch-speakers who want to learn each other's languages while avoiding mistakes like saying "Does it bother you if I masturbate a lot at night?" or "Where can I get some gasoline for my buttock?"

We don't want to end up like John Cleese in the Hungarian Dictionary sketch, after all.

A false friend is, according to the Collins English Dictionary,
a word or expression in one language that, because it resembles one in another language, is often wrongly taken to have the same meaning, for example, the French agenda which means diary, not agenda
My brilliant wife wrote her BA dissertation on false friends in Danish and Norwegian. Below are some false friends in Dutch and Norwegian for you all to peruse.

Note: In cases where the spelling of the two words is the same, the written word has been used. When the similarity lies in the pronunciation, I've used my own (per)version of the International Phonetic Alphabet.

WordDutch meaningNorwegian meaning
friet/fritt("French") fryfree
traan/tranteardropcod liver oil
feitenfactsfatty (insult)
kakafeces (informal)cake
knul/knullboysexual intercourse (vulgar)
kut/kuttvagina (vulgar)cut


  1. Free fries? :D

    Nice post ;) <3

  2. Hehe, like Freedom fries :P

    Thanks ;) I'll post more when I find them!

  3. Great Post! I love playing with languages :-)

  4. Thanks! I'm always pleasantly surprised to know that people read the blog :)

  5. "Knul in de kut" would suddenly get a totall different meaning than I ever thought it would have. However, better not use those words when approaching a nice lady (be it Belgian or Norwegian) I assume? ;)

    And I also feel like some free fries indeed :D

  6. A small addition: "ikke" means "no" in Norwegian, but it is slang for "me" in Dutch. I remember a student Norwegian at Leuven university. She followed Norwegian classes there. The teacher asked something and this girl apparently always raised her hand and said "ikke!" (as in: "I know the answer!") then to realise that "ikke" has a different meaning in Norwegian...

    Apparently it's not the hardest language to learn due to some similarities with Dutch. Comparing now to my Hebrew course I'm following after working hours: totally different alphabet, writing right-to-left, and hardly any common ground with Germanic languages. But well, as long as I'm having fun and feel motivated, I go on with it....
    אני לומד עברית בברצלונה, לו נאסלס

    But I see your Dutch lessons are going well, even to the extent you're already familiarising with Flemish slang :)

  7. Thanks, I'll add that one in the next post in the series! (By the way, "ikke" normally means "don't" or "not", depending on the context.)

    Slang is to me like the icing on top of the cake of language learning. That, and accents. Maybe I should become an actor instead of a linguist...

    I ran your Hebrew through Google Translate (naturally), and it gave me this:

    "I study Hebrew in Barcelona, he Nasls"

    What does the "he Nasls" part mean?