Long & short of Norway / Largo & corto de Noruega

La versión en español está después de la versión en inglés.

I had a great time noting street signs and shop and business names as I roamed the streets of Bergen. Some time back, I shared what is considered the longest Finnish word, which our friend Lulu kindly pronounced for us in one breath (click here). Although I find Finnish very difficult to remember, that’s mostly because the vocabulary rarely relates to any other language I know.

I do find Finnish easy to pronounce. Words sound how they look. As far as I know, every letter is pronounced and I’ve begun to appreciate the emphasis placed on double consonants. Norwegian, however, doesn’t sound anything like it looks. And if you live in Bergen, other Norwegians might say it doesn’t even sound like Norwegian.

One of the longest Norwegian words commonly used is “menneskerettighetsorganisasjonene,” which means “the human rights organizations.”

Here’s a great and less often used word (I wonder why) “Dampskipsundervannsstyrkeprøvemaskinerikonstruksjonsvanskeligheter,” which means something akin to “underwater steamship strength test machinery building difficulties.”

But, I’m told there’s really no limit to the length of a word in Norwegian, since you can keep adding elements as needed to describe something. And, by the way, the street sign at top means, I think, Nicholas Church Commons.


Me lo pasé muy bien observando careteles de las calles y nombres de tiendas y negocios mientras deambulaba por Bergen. Hace algún tiempo, compartí lo que se considera la palabra finlandesa más larga, que nuestra amiga Lulu pronunció amablemente para nosotros de una sola vez (haz clic aquí). Aunque encuentro que el finlandés es muy difícil de recordar, eso se debe principalmente a que el vocabulario rara vez se relaciona con ningún otro idioma que conozca.

Encuentro que el finlandés es fácil de pronunciar. Las palabras suenan como se ven. Hasta donde yo sé, cada letra se pronuncia y he comenzado a apreciar el énfasis puesto en las consonantes dobles. El noruego, sin embargo, no se parece en nada a lo que parece. Y si vives en Bergen, otros noruegos podrían decir que ni siquiera suena como noruego.

Una de las palabras noruegas más largas que se usa comúnmente es “menneskerettighetsorganisasjonene”, que significa “las organizaciones de derechos humanos”.

Here’s a great and less often used word (I wonder why) “Dampskipsundervannsstyrkeprøvemaskinerikonstruksjonsvanskeligheter,” which means something akin to “underwater steamship strength test machinery building difficulties.”

But, I’m told there’s really no limit to the length of a word in Norwegian, since you can keep adding elements as needed to describe something. And, by the way, the street sign at top means, I think, Nicholas Church Commons.

• Holberg’s Common. I wouldn’t mind having something common named after me. Come to think of it there is The Mitchell Block in Ventura, California, as well as one in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
• Común de Holberg. No me importaría tener algo común que lleve mi nombre. Ahora que lo pienso, está El Mitchell Block (bloque) en Ventura, California, así como en Winnipeg, Manitoba.
• Sometimes the translations aren’t very obvious. This means Trade Union.
• A veces las traducciones no son muy obvias. Esto significa Sindicato.
• I’m pretty certain “telefon” doesn’t mean “library.”
• Estoy bastante seguro de que “telefon” no significa “biblioteca”.

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

33 thoughts on “Long & short of Norway / Largo & corto de Noruega”

  1. I see the Norwegian’s have done the same thing with their red phone boxes as the Brits. Turned them into free libraries.

    Considering my maiden name, it means my last (now middle) name is seen almost everywhere. Most especially on moving vehicles.

  2. Isn’t German like that too? You can add words together to make more specific compound nouns, if I’m not mistaken. Watching “Borgen” I’m getting the impression that written Danish also looks nothing like the way it’s pronounced.

    I’m for Bundet! What does that make me? Hmmmm…

      1. Deedles:
        Or maybe this is an organization that simply makes it easier for Bundet to find what she needs.

    1. Steve:
      German is the same. My first time there, my friend and I had a ball trying to remember the street names that could have wrapped around buildings. As for Bundet, we are either cigarettes or…

  3. I’m so glad to read (previous post) that you’re feeling much better! Woo hoo!
    This language stuff is amazing. To think that people developed this set of sounds to express things, and they became common and recognized for their meaning, to everyone around, is amaaaaaazing to me.

    1. Judy C:
      I agree about language. I also find it fascinating to learn about languages that seem to demonstrate no relationship with Latin or other languages. Finnish and Euskara for example. And the fact that there isn’t even a definitive origin (as in the case of Euskara).

    1. Bob:
      Oh but it’s so much fun to try and pronounce Norwegian. Jerry used to incorrectly pronounce Nyekirken (the new church). More than 20 years later and his cousins still say: “Jerry, say the name of the church!” before howling in laughter.

    1. Debra:
      I never thought of that. The problem there would be trying to come up with a word that’s less than 7 letters.

  4. Dutch is another bizarre language – so few obvious connections with English, and almost never pronounced in the way one might expect. We titter at some of the common words, however – such as “kok” (which means “cook”), “slagroom” (which means “butter”), “toegang” (which means “access” or “entrance”), and of course the Xmas treat “oliebollen” (literally “oily balls” – they’re actually a bit like cross between doughnuts and choux buns). Jx

    1. Jon:
      When I was in Amsterdam in the ´70s, I had studied a bit before going. I remember next to nothing now. My friend told her little brother to remember his handschoenen. “Hand shoes?” I asked. “Gloves,” she said.

  5. Now I have a headache. Why on Earth do words need to be that long? No wonder they don’t write letters!!!!!!!!!

    But the pictures are glorious. For some reason they were giving me vibes of Provincetown.

    1. Mistress Borghese:
      I suppose the old wood siding is reminiscent of P’Town. Who says they don’t write letters?

    1. Walthefourth:
      Itwasagreattimedespiteillness. AndyesIhavenoticedhowdifficultitistonotputspaceinasItype.

  6. I didn’t know that about Norwegian (that you could just keep adding and adding to a word) so in that sense it’s much like German. I’d imagine that Finnish would he a hellishly hard language for we English-mother-tongued denizens to attempt, though I had heard that out of the Scandinavian languages (so presumably including Finnish), Danish is rather surprisingly the most difficult for the likes of us. Myself having had a Danish grandmother (deceased long before I was born) I’ve long been curious as to giving it a go before it’s too late, which it now very nearly is!

    1. Raybeard:
      Yes, that was of course one of the first things I noticed about German. The Finnish language is nothing like those of the other Scandinavian countries. I find it the easiest to pronounce but it seems to have no music to it. I was told by a Norwegian that Danes understand the Norwegians but the Norwegians don’t understand Danes. Lots of similarites in Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. But they DO sound very different. It’s that music.

      1. Urspo:
        This might be of interest to you. The longest word in the world — in common usage — is Meervoudigepersoonlijkheidsstoornissen. It’s Dutch and is the word for multiple personality disorders

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