Monday, 18 May 2015
I got a text from Norway the other day informing me that Putin the cat had a stoffskifteproblem which was costing her adoptive carers a lot to rectify in pills.
The text was in Norwegian so I was a bit stumped by what exactly the medical issue was. I'm used to long Norwegian words, it's a favourite habit of Norwegians to jam words together to make new ones - for example if you have an indefinite article such as "a car" it's 'en bil' . But if you want to talk about the car, it's "bilen" - 'the' has been stuck onto the end of the word. The trick to deciphering the long words is generally just to take them apart and translate them bit by bit, for example the word for a plane is "en fly", the word for the airport is "flyplassen". Easy - place for the planes..
So - back to Putin's medical condition. I knew that "stoff" translated to "material", and "skifte" meant to change (for example to change clothes would be to skifte klær). So I wondered if perhaps Putin had a hair shedding problem. But it seemed a bit weird that it would be a problem as Norwegian forest cats shed their winter coat in spring anyway - surely she wouldn't need pills for that? So I finally resorted to good old Google Translate.. and..
any guesses anyone?
So it turned out Stoffskifte is Metabalism, or Metabolic - ahhhhhh - of course ! It made me laugh - very typical of norwegian to make a big word by describing exactly what the thing is with little words.
Apparently the longest commonly used norwegian word is menneskerettighetsorganisasjonene - which looks daunting but if you know what each bit means, translates simply to "human rights organisations". Most words make sense when you think about them, for example their word for a mall is "gågate " which translates to walking street. The word for hospital? sykehus ! I'm not sure why parliament is called 'Stortinget' - 'The Big Thing' - it's more of an exception than the rule.