nineveh_uk (nineveh_uk) wrote,

The peculiarities of Danish

For those watching The Killing and thinking "what the hell are they saying?"*, apparently so is everybody else. Even in Denmark, where young children take longer to learn to recognise sounds than in Swedish and Norwegian, despite their being mutually intelligble languages - until you try to count beyound 39.

Rather than try and say anything intelligent about this, I give you two Norwegian takes on the subject.

(1) "For me, the Danish language has collapsed into meaningless, gutteral sounds" (English narrative).

(2) Danish numbers. Unfortunately this one doesn't have English subtitles/narrative. Essentially, all is going fine between the Danish pilot broadcasting Mayday and the Norwegian air-traffic control, until the pilot gives the co-ordinates and our protagonist comes up against the madness that is the Danish number system, in which fifty is not something sensible like the Norwegian "femti" (see also "fem" for 5, and "femten" for 15, how logical to the English speaker!), or even an ordinary base twenty system, but "halvtreds" (shortened from halvtredsindstyve), which is technically base twenty except that it is not easily comprehensible like soixante-dix, but archaic and incomprehensible and uses fractions. Because the Danish word for fifty is not fifty, or forty-ten, or even 2 times twenty plus ten. It is "half-third (i.e. 2 and a half) times twenty", using a word for 2 and a half that is no longer in use.

It's amazing the country managed to produce even one nuclear physicist.

*Not always helped by the sub-titles. How on earth did "shipmate" for "seaman" or "sailor" get past the editor in the first two episodes? Yes, I know that shipmate is a word, but it is not a synonym for the other two.
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