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Completely Texas: Norwegian Colloquialisms

The Norwegian language contains many colloquialisms of the weird sort. Here are some of the more bizarre varieties.
Norwegians and Texans partying in front of a Norwegian flag with a Texas star.

Colloquialisms are strange beasts—phrases we throw out and instantly understand, even though they make little sense. “The whole nine yards”? Most Americans get it, but the origins reveal why it can be nonsense to the rest of the world.

Norwegian vocabulary is no different, though many—most—of the phrases are perhaps even more eclectic. To give you just a sampling:

“Helt Texas” (“Completely Texas”)

After being featured in various international outlets—the BBC and the Washington Post, for example—“helt Texas” became a bit of a viral sensation. Depending on the context, the phrase means “completely wild” or “out of control.”

The author Vegard Vigerust coined the saying in the fifties when American Western movies ruled Norwegian cinema. As the lawless cowboys caused all kinds of ruckus, the films served as a good baseline for colorfully describing anything out of control. And, as these Westerns often were set in Texas, “completely Texas” was born.

In that sense, it isn’t a million miles away from when Americans use “wild west” to describe something that’s out of control. The main difference is that Texans have to take the brunt of the blame in the Norwegian colloquialism.

“Pølsevev” (“Sausage Weave” or “Sausage Skin”)

It’s a winding road going from “sausage weave” to “nonsense,” but that is what “pølsevev” ultimately translates to. Or, to preserve the meat theme, “baloney.”

The etymology stems from the sausage’s (allegedly) delicious-looking weave disguising its poor-quality innards. Which, of course, is nonsense!

That’s all a stretch, but then, isn’t that the case with most colloquialisms?

“Ta det piano” (“Take it piano”)

We’re getting into the weeds of it with “ta det piano,” which properly translates to “take it easy.”

Often, the expression is explained by equating piano music to something soft and relaxing. More accurately, “piano” is Italian for “soft” or “careful,” which isn’t quite as colorful of an explanation, but it certainly makes more sense.

And, only somewhat related: A tasty Norwegian chocolate yoghurt took its name from the saying, though it has now been shortened to “Piano,” and is apparently re-purposed for a vanilla cream.

Two cartons of vanilla cream in front of baked good.
The buns on the right, known as “skoleboller”—“school buns”—are quite delicious. (Tine)

“Hæla i taket!” (“Heals in the roof!”)

Or, if the party really is rocking, “tenna i tapeten!” ("The teeth in the wallpaper!")

The expressions are the more controlled, fun cousins of “helt Texas!” Parties gone wild, but not too wild—very Norwegian.

I haven’t found any reliable information about either’s etymology, but I can’t help but wonder if “Hæla i taket” is related to the 1930 song “Dancing on the Ceiling.” (Or, even better, Lionel Richie’s track with the same name.)

“Tenna i tapeten”? That’s where I'll have to pass. I'm not sure why one would chew the wall, but it’s a pretty amusing saying all the same.

Fun fact: Hæla i taket was the Norwegian name for the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

On the Move

The Digest has moved from Substack to Ghost after a series of less-than-ideal decisions and statements from the former platform. Anil Dash’s thread on it is hidden by Bluesky’s current invite-only wall, but this TikTok excerpt from The Verge’s interview with Substack’s CEO illustrates a greater problem with the platform: Politically and culturally, Substack is going the way of Twitter.

Ghost’s newsletters sadly do not display the feature images you see on the web, so I’m just going to add the one I expertly created with Dall-E. It illustrates “helt Texas” nigh perfectly.

Norwegians and Texans partying in front of a Norwegian flag with a Texas star.

Web Sources

The whole nine yards. (2023, November 14). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_whole_nine_yards

Klisjeer. https://klisjeer.no

Piano® Duo yoghurt nøttetoffee og sjokocrisp. From Tine. https://www.tine.no/merkevarer/piano/produkter/piano-duo-yoghurt-n%C3%B8ttetoffee-og-sjokocrisp