Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dude, What Vagina'ed?

A European sandwich, anyone?
Revelation from my UiB graduate English buddies: In Norwegian, the past tense for “happened” and the kid’s word for “vagina” sound so similar that my American ears can’t pick them apart. As we sat on the couches outside the reading room, they repeated the words over and over, stressing their distinction. I wonder what everyone doing their research thought when they heard us shouting “skjedde” and “skjede” each time the door opened. Hopefully, they realized it was a linguistics lesson, or maybe thought we were a traveling Scandinavian Vagina Monologues rehearsal. Luckily, skjedde's verb status means it doesn’t often get mistaken for “skjede” in a sentence. Unlike that other pesky noun, “kjede.” It means “necklace.” But obviously, if you’re in a jewelry store, you want to buy a necklace, not a vagina. It may get a bit more awkward if you want to compliment someone’s bling...


  1. :D I guess you mean "kjede", perlekjede, gullkjede pronounced like young kids in Bergen do....

    :D "Ingen skjede skadd," sa gynekologen. Joke among med. students. Wordplay on "Ingen skade skjedd" (no harm done).

    One's got to trod carefully!

  2. Haha, thanks Felisol! That must be what it was...

  3. Actually Felisol, it was during a discussion of various dialects, so we touched on general Norwegian "sj"-sounds, characteristically Bergen-ish "ch"-sounds*, as well as my own dialect, Haugesund, which has more stress on the "kj"-sounds**.

    Of course, you have various words which sound alike or different depending on dialect:

    But only in certain instances will there be, well, not really confusion, but at least cause for a joke, where the one noun can be substituted for another, because nobody would misinterpret a verb for a noun. The real-life example I used was an anecdote my uncle told me, when he had gone to visit my adult cousin, only to find his daughter-in-law alone with the kids. His son, she said, had gone into town to buy a new chain (kjede). Despite her natural dialect-pattern (southern part of Hordaland), she pronounced it closer to "skjede", and did not immediately provide the necessary context that it was a chain for a chainsaw. She has confirmed herself that it did happen, and she was immediately mortified by embarrassment when she realized how what she had said might be construed.

    * what, if I remember correctly from phonetics, is a "palatal fricative". See chart:
    ** somewhere between a velar plosive and palatal fricative, the previously mentioned "sj"-sound being a palato-alveolar fricative.

  4. 'and the kid’s word for “vagina”...'

    not the kid's word, just the word.

  5. Thanks Jonas. Trust you to give a dissertation on linguistics in blog comments. Also, guess what? You're both from Haugesund.

  6. Well, I actually happen to live in Haugesund and have done so for the last 35 years.
    I've raised a daughter here, and have often heard many of her friends using the sh as in shell (or the German sch) sound instead of the kj sound. It has become a youth-mania spreading from Stavanger till Bergen and is now also often heard in Oslo."Gå i sjelleren og sjøpe sjølige sjinaputter."It sounds like helpless children not yet able to relate to the adult language.