1. "And them"
Norwegians have this interesting way of referring to groups of people using the term "and them", which strikes me as strange and inadvertently rude when they're talking about just two people.
For example, while an English speaker might say, "I saw Homer and Marge today" or "I saw the Simpsons today", a Norwegian speaker might instead say, "I saw Homer and them today". Wait... what? Firstly, it seems strange to me that the singular "Marge" is being referred to as the plural "them". Secondly... wouldn't it be just as easy and more accurate to say "Marge"? Thirdly... does Marge not matter in this conversation? Maybe it's just a language thing that I don't understand, but if I overheard someone refer to my husband and me as "Gisle and them", I'd be pretty unhappy about my status as "them".
To counterbalance the weirdness of this "and them" business, I will now introduce a very cute and prevalent Norwegian phrase: "Sånn". It sounds a lot like the English word "son". If you look this word up on a translation service, you would find the word translated to mean "like that" or "like this", which frankly, does not match my perception of this word AT ALL.
To the best of my understanding, sånn is a kind of filler word, used to help move a conversation from one topic to the next, or used to indicate that something is finished. For example, you might say sånn to indicate that you and the person you've been talking with have reached a consensus and are finished talking about whatever you were discussing, and would now like to do the next thing, e.g. say goodbye, or talk about something else, or do something else.
This is a word that I hear constantly, and I think I'm starting to understand the appropriate time to use it. People mutter it to themselves when they're working on something, like cooking a meal. When the eggs have been cracked, you might say "sånn" and then try to remember what you have to do next. When the quiche goes in the oven, you might say "sånn" to yourself and then set a timer. All in all, I think it's a diverse and useful word.
3. "Jeg er blåøyd" ("I'm a blue eyed person")
In Norwegian, this phrase is taken to mean "I'm naively unaware" or just "I'm naive". This is extremely funny to me, given the high prevalence of blue-eyed native Norwegians. Where this phrase originated, I have no idea.
4. "Melkesyre i lårene" ("Thighs have gone sour")
I heard this phrase while making the short but steep hike up to the Løvstakken trail, which runs directly above our house. The incline is just steep and long enough to cause you to become a bit winded and a little wobbly in the knees by the time you've reached the top. While hiking up with my friend, she asked me if my thighs had gone sour. I admit, I found this question really amusing.
Later, when I asked about the Norwegian term for this concept of the thighs going "sour", it made a little more sense. The word for lactic acid, (the chemical your body creates for quick energy production when the oxygen in your bloodstream is not enough to fuel your muscles during strenuous exercise) in Norwegian is "melkesyre" or literally "milk-acid". So, when you get the feeling of lactic acid flooding your muscles during brief, heavy exercise, your muscles feel like sour milk. Ha!
5. Being "The American" in a card game
Some friends came over and we played a pretty fun card game called "Americana", which is played with a standard deck of cards and involves some betting and hopefully total domination of your opponents. The game requires temporary alliances and lots of strategy. I heard some stories that the "consequences" of losing this game usually involve some kind of humiliation... like pretending to vacuum the sidewalk clad only in your underwear, but luckily no such things were at stake here.
At any rate, the thing that struck me as most interesting about this game is this phrase "to be the American". In this game, you can only be the American if you get a perfect score in a single round, i.e. get ALL the points, while your opponents get none. This is very hard to do, apparently, and wasn't accomplished during our very long game. I got to thinking about what this term might mean though... is the winner "The American" because they're really awesome? Or, more likely, is the winner "The American" because of his or her ruthless ability to suck everyone else dry, and take all the winnings for themselves? Hmmmm... Either way, I think it's a funny/interesting commentary on Americanism.
6. "The Immigrant Shops"
My last observation has to do with this unusual position I have been finding myself in rather often. For my entire life, I have been part of the cultural and ethnic majority in my home country. Here in Norway, I am part of a cultural minority. And, although Norway seems to be quite a "western" country to me, there are some differences that continually surprise me, and most of them have to do with food.
Having spent the last decade in San Francisco, perhaps the foodie capital of the U.S., I may be an extreme case. But, I am accustomed to a variety and quality of food and ingredients being readily available at my local Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, or farmer's market. When I'm in a grocery store here, or talking to anyone about food in general, and I inquire about where I can find something, the unvarying answer from every Norwegian person is that what I want is "the immigrant shops". The same phrase, every time. And each time, it surprises me, and then I think to myself, "Oh yeah! That's me!"
Now, these kindly Norwegian advisors are not wrong. I have been to these "immigrant shops". I walked in warily for the first time, not knowing what to expect. And really, it was like a breath of fresh air. THERE'S the tofu!!! Sånn!!