Don't choke on the Danish pudding with red berries
July 5, 2007 1:16 PM   Subscribe

So you want to speak Danish? Who wouldn't...! The first place to start is by mastering this phrase: rødgrød med fløde. If you can't get it on the first or second (or 27th) try, have a look at this detailed pronunciation guide which tells how to make the pudding AND the phrase.
posted by salishsea (48 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
This is funny because I had been told that pronunciation of Danish was very difficult and decided to check it out for myself, just for amusement. Well, everything they say--it's true. I looked a transcriptions of what I was listening to and could only find a vague correspondence.
posted by zorro astor at 1:25 PM on July 5, 2007

['ʁøðgʁø:ˀð mɛð 'flø:ðɛ]

Thank the gods for IPA, however, never an 100% accurate substitute for actual recordings. Listening and mimicking in the end, wins.
posted by taursir at 1:30 PM on July 5, 2007

I used to work for a Danish family, and was much more surprised by the written language than the sound of it when spoken. Spoken, it didn't sound too different from German consonants and French vowels, maybe, but addressing mail to their relatives in Denmark was weird. Jette hailed from some island, and "island" in Danish is "ø." Anyway, I can do a mean Danish accent now though I still can't guess in the slightest how to read it. Good post.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:36 PM on July 5, 2007

I'll give it a try this weekend and ask the Swedes how they pronounce it rather than swallowing my tongue root entirely. It's not too late in the season for strawberries yet?

Shibboleths are fun.
posted by litfit at 1:37 PM on July 5, 2007

My ex is Danish, so I at least have a grasp of the basics. It's a pretty simple language -- I'd say simpler than Spanish or French -- except for the pronunciation. The pronunciation is... kinda like drunken German. The "R"s are the hardest, totally in the back of the throat -- that's probably the hardest thing about the phrase, "rød grød med fløde". And, yes, they totally do test foreigners with it.

Its real use, in the 'States, is as a sekrit code language; unlike Spanish or French, NOBODY speaks Danish here. We could talk about anything, anywhere, and it was like having our own little ssh encryption channel.

Of course, now that we've broken up, it's pretty fucking useless. ::sniff::
posted by LordSludge at 1:39 PM on July 5, 2007

and "island" in Danish is "ø."

Now look up "peninsula". Logical, isn't it? :)
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:42 PM on July 5, 2007

Trying to master Danish just about drove Garrison Keillor to suicide. And it ruined his marriage (Well, one of them. Maybe two of them).

On the plus side, it DID send him back to Minnesota.
posted by briank at 1:43 PM on July 5, 2007

My ex was Danish. It took me 15 years to learn the damned language. Then he dumped me. I don't think my pronunciation of rødgrød med fløde had anything to do with it. (It is a combination of rasberry, strawberry, and perhaps most importantly, red current juice, thickened with potato starch, with piskefløde, whipping cream with so much butterfat that it's light yellow, dumped on it.)

I have beautiful memories of eating rødgrød med fløde made by my friend's mother, sitting in the garden of their summer house in Rørvig (even more difficult to pronounce).
posted by MotherTucker at 1:46 PM on July 5, 2007

I have Danish visitors this summer...I would love to move there, but it's incredibly difficult to get in. What's cool is that if you do can get in, they send you to Danish classes for free. Denmark is one of those places with high taxes that seem totally worth it considering what one gets in exchange.

I've never come close to pronouncing 'rødgrød med fløde', but to me a cool thing about it (I didn't see mentioned in the links) is that it was used as a challenge phrase by Danes in World War II to weed out the foreigners, especially Germans.
posted by troybob at 1:51 PM on July 5, 2007

Also, the Danish have an awesome queen who is an artist and costume designer. If you check out the pages of the royal family, each member has her/his own cool logo, which I'm pretty sure she designed herself.
posted by troybob at 1:58 PM on July 5, 2007

Det land endnu er skønt,
thi blå sig søen bælter,
og løvet står så grønt
Og ædle kvinder, skønne mø'r
og mænd og raske svende
bebo de danskes øer

's right. Gotta love Denmark.

Although, as a swede with a danish grandfather, I'm sad to confess that I can't understand danes speaking. Believe me, I've tried, but I just don't get them. Reading danish, not a problem. Out and about in København? I'm screwed.

BUT! Maybe this nifty pronounciation guide will help me? Maybe danish will start to sound like norwegian to my ears after a few lessons? If so, I'm forever in your debt, salishsea.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 2:08 PM on July 5, 2007

...and maybe, as an added bonus, I'll learn how to spell "pronunciation"? Who knows?
posted by soundofsuburbia at 2:10 PM on July 5, 2007

When I was a boy I remember eating a red pudding. My dad said it was a traditional Danish dessert. It seems like it came in a box, kind of like a Jello mix. I haven't had it in probably 20 years, but I remember it quite distinctly. I'll have to try that recipe.
On another note, I'd love to visit Denmark someday. I think I've got relatives still living on Bornholm.
posted by bstreep at 2:13 PM on July 5, 2007

For a Norwegian, I think understanding spoken Danish is rather easy, once you understand their numerical system and have watched a Danish film or two. Reading is of course even easier, as it's as close to Norwegian Bokmål as you get.
posted by klue at 2:17 PM on July 5, 2007

The Norwegians, whose language is similar to Danish and Swedish - though not, of course, to Finnish - never get tired of proclaiming that the Danes talk "as if they have a potato stuck in their throat."
posted by kozad at 2:19 PM on July 5, 2007

My grandmother was (is, until quite recently..) Danish, so I got my tongue around rødgrød at a very early age....the idea of putting fløde into it was always a bit ycky for me - I had it neat.
Anybody interested in things Danish should try and watch this film, called in English 'Twist & Shout', or 'Tro, håb og kærlighed'. It's really a beautiful work; strangely overlooked, even if it was directed by Bille August. I taped it off've Canadian pay TV years ago, and watched it repeatedly. I was just thinking about it the other day for some reason...
posted by Flashman at 2:32 PM on July 5, 2007

Yeah, we talk funny and it's pretty hard to learn Danish partly because nothing is pronounced how it's spelled and there are lots of irregular verbs.

litfit, there's really no point in getting some Swedes to say it as even the Swedes I know don't get it right. (They have problems with the soft d and the ø-sound among other things.)
posted by sveskemus at 2:36 PM on July 5, 2007

Of course, some Norwegians think Danish is too hard.
posted by klue at 2:40 PM on July 5, 2007 [5 favorites]

Well, I've got Danes at home and "right" is relative when you're transliterating purely for the benefit of English speakers.

Is it fair to say though (as was alleged by my linguistics profs), that going from Danish as a first language to the other North Germanic tongues is much easier on the learner?
posted by litfit at 2:45 PM on July 5, 2007

That clip was pretty damn funny, klue. (To a Dane, anyway.)
posted by sveskemus at 2:46 PM on July 5, 2007

That clip was great!
posted by soundofsuburbia at 2:49 PM on July 5, 2007

Good lord klue...I just spit piskefløde all over myself.
posted by salishsea at 2:51 PM on July 5, 2007

And I thought Swedish was a challenging language. Oh, well -- none of the other Scandinavian languages has anything on Finnish for sheer complexity.
posted by blucevalo at 2:51 PM on July 5, 2007

Then try this: Døde røde rødøjede rådne røgede ørreder med fløde. (One of many delightful Danish tungebrækkere...)

But: back to the dessert: it's just simple old Rote Grütze (mit Sahne, oder, noch besser: Vanillesoße).

(Just to confirm, nonetheles: despite the proximity, Danish remains bafflingly incomprehensible to Germans.)
posted by progosk at 2:56 PM on July 5, 2007

Well, I've got Danes at home and "right" is relative when you're transliterating purely for the benefit of English speakers.

Good point.

Is it fair to say though (as was alleged by my linguistics profs), that going from Danish as a first language to the other North Germanic tongues is much easier on the learner?

I don't know for sure. It makes sense because I think it is harder to spell in Danish than Norwegian or Swedish and our numeric system can be a bit confusing for foreigners. I've met both Norwegians and Swedes who spoke very good Danish, though, so it is absolutely possible.

Most people don't bother with the pronounciation when talking to other Scandinavians, though. When I'm in Sweden I use Swedish style numbers and a few Swedish words here and there but I just pronounce it all in Danish.
posted by sveskemus at 2:57 PM on July 5, 2007

Damn you, klue, I wanted to post that clip!

Yeah, Danish is a pisser. Fortunately, my mother's family is Norwegian, so I'm tribally excused from having to try to speak it.
posted by languagehat at 3:03 PM on July 5, 2007

My mom is Danish, so always heard these strange sounds around the house growing up. Danish is essentially Swedish spoken while trying very hard not to chew the big wad of poop in your mouth.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:05 PM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Meh, danish is not so bad. Merely takes a couple years to learn. I've been living here all my life and i can mostly make other danes understand what I want... What's really difficult to come to terms with is the weather, at least as it has been the last couple weeks.
posted by Catfry at 3:08 PM on July 5, 2007

Just trying to repeat it triggered my gag reflex!
posted by ancientgower at 3:15 PM on July 5, 2007

Though, I should think that right this minute a non-danish girl and a danish boy (say) are engaging in the international language of beer and weed fuelled sex at the Roskilde festival. They probably didn't need a pronunication guide. But hopefully they'll use protection.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 3:16 PM on July 5, 2007

They'll need scuba gear more than protection :)
posted by Catfry at 3:23 PM on July 5, 2007

Klue, I have a pain from laughing now, and thank you. No need to be Danish (or speak it) to find that sketch funny. (Though I suspect it is funnier still if you are or do).
posted by motty at 3:26 PM on July 5, 2007

motty, some of the joke is, I think, that the 'words' spoken in the sketch does kinda sound danish only it's gibberish, so alot of the humour is in the fact that the words used don't mean anything but is still recognisable as sounds generally associated with danish.
posted by Catfry at 3:30 PM on July 5, 2007

Catfry: Hehe, fair enough!
posted by soundofsuburbia at 3:31 PM on July 5, 2007

While you're right, Catfry, they did try to base the words used on something. Kamelåså, for example, is made out of kamel (camel) and lås (lock). Now, if you bend the humps of a camel towards each other and lock them there, you get a round shape resembling that of a bicycle tire, which is what he's trying to buy.
posted by klue at 3:46 PM on July 5, 2007

klue, that was hilarious. Ballsy of them too to have the documentary angle in English as well. And even for those unfamiliar with the Danish or Norwegian languages, it's very illustrative of typical language barrier transactions devolving into a strange yet familiar game of charades.

(Another reason the clip really struck a nerve with me is that I, too, have three cars to feed. ;))
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:59 PM on July 5, 2007

Danish is an interesting language. There are many cognates with English. As small as the country is there are fairly distinct accents within the country in fact some of them are very difficult to understand even and especially for Danes. I speak ris Dansk, a wicked sweet VestJusk (Lemvig but not Tuberon), and a useful bit of Copenhavensk. I still can’t do a passable (Native) Fuensk. I used to speak with native fluency but my American R’s have crept back in, but I haven’t been back in 20 years so it is what it is. I would love to go back and spend some time there. And that video was a rip.
posted by MapGuy at 6:37 PM on July 5, 2007

What odd timing... There's a bowl of rødgrød sitting in the fridge as I type this. For as long as I can remember, it's always been made with rhubarb juice added into the mix.

My family still speaks a considerable amount of Danish but while I've come to understand a fair amount, I never speak it myself. If I was held at gunpoint, I could probably pull off a passable rødgrød med fløde... maybe. My mom and aunt would try to get me to speak it when I was little, but the gaggy extra vowel sounds (ø å) would make me blush and get all self-conscious.

The Danish birthday song they would sing every year would make me cover my ears and flee.
posted by CKmtl at 7:00 PM on July 5, 2007

More beautiful sounds that remind me of the 11 years I spent there
posted by growabrain at 8:23 PM on July 5, 2007

Bahahaha! I've got a Danish friend, a half-Danish friend, and a sorta-boyfriend who's Australian but spent a year in exchange in Denmark and likes to think he's Danish. They have all told me that "hol khol mel floooooo" (or whatever it is that phrase sounds like) is the ultimate test of Danishness.

Thanks for the post, much entertainingness!
posted by divabat at 9:21 PM on July 5, 2007

"hol khol mel floooooo"

divabat, that was awesome. You've totally got it. ;)
posted by sveskemus at 3:35 AM on July 6, 2007

Danish may be hard to pronounce, but it's made harder than it should be by the Danes. Danes are incredibly lazy and tend to both skip a lot of the sounds and chain a lot of the words together. The end result is horrible; but easy to confuse foreigners with, I guess. Danish is a lot prettier when pronounced with a bit of care. Even if you inevitably sounds a bit snobbish doing so.

Also, beware that Danes, in general, are somewhat language-nazi. It isn't long since Denmark was close to being a 100% "monoculture". Though initially flattered at any attempts by foreigners to crack what they know can be a difficult language, any permanent settler is expected to master at least the pronunciation like a native. Heavy accents will be frowned upon.
posted by cx at 4:15 AM on July 6, 2007

All too true, cx.
posted by Catfry at 4:22 AM on July 6, 2007

cx, I think laziness in pronounciation, skipping sounds and chaining words together happens in a lot of languages. It is not done specifically to confuse or annoy anybody, I don't think.

It is true that Danish with foreign accents is not something Danes are exposed to very often and that is probably the reason it is noticed more than for example English with a foreign accent which you hear all the time in most places.
posted by sveskemus at 6:46 AM on July 6, 2007

"hol khol mel floooooo"


kål? < em>something unintelligible> cabbage with cream?!
posted by CKmtl at 1:21 PM on July 6, 2007

hurra for formatting errors...
posted by CKmtl at 1:22 PM on July 6, 2007

cabbage with cream?!

Good thing this isn't a Danish restaurant, then.
posted by divabat at 12:48 AM on July 7, 2007

« Older One hell of an obituary   |   lepidopterist considers literature Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments