“Bad words”, new words, Ibsen and “Shame”

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“Bad words”, new words, Ibsen and “Shame”

A new linguistic treasure chest will be uncovered next week. The Norwegian Academy’s dictionary could have filled twelve volumes, but will only be available online – free of charge.


The dictionary – dubbed NAOB – is based on the Norwegian Encyclopedia Dictionary, which was issued four times in the period 1937-57, with two added volumes in 1995. The language is however in the form of “bokmål”, within approved Norwegian spelling. Here you can find a lot of other spellings, word tenses, explanations, pronunciation – and not least a gold mine of examples stemming from Norwegian literature.

Among the 6,000 sources, we find the free newspaper Night and Day, which illustrates the use of the word “acid”: “as an indian that discovered “acid”. Ibsen quotes illustrate thousands of words, such as blueberry hill and Christmas secrets. The very first writer who is represented is Conrad Schwach, born in 1793, and  the Bible is of course widely present . Karl-Ove Knausgård and Vigdis Hjorth are among the more modern literary sources, but also the cartoon “Pondus” and magazines like KK and My Fashion (Min Mote) are present. The success series “Shame” is used diligently as an important example of youth language with a natural presence in the dictionary. a total of 90 words are associated with the series – among them “chille”, “adde”, “pæse”, “fucka”, “hooke” and “gaydar”.

Verbal time witnesses

In 2014, author Helene Uri, invited NRK’s radio listeners to submit new words. The response was immense.

“We had to discuss the criteria for which words should be included. They must have a certain extent, an opportunity to survive, or they should be an important verbal part of this time – such as “rose walk”, says the linguist to NTB.

Humor characterized many suggestions, and people’s daily lives. “Wild snow” was for example accepted as a counter to artificially made snow. New family constellations brought with them “extra mother” and “bonus child”. “Christmas bought” as an alternative to home-made Christmas cookies did not survive the selection process. The usage was not sufficient, according to Uri

The campaign added 2,051 words to NAOB, and Uri hopes people continue to deliver words. – It is the meaning that the dictionary is to be live and in continuous development, she says, but emphasizes that resources are need to continue the work.

The Ministry of Culture has financed the project so far – by NOK 80 million – helped by private actors who contributed another NOK 20 million. According to project manager Petter Henriksen, former editor-in-chief of Store Norske leksikon, financing is still uncertain.

Swear Words and the like to be included

The dictionary aims to embrace the entire language. Therefore, taboo and other disputable words are also included, Henriksen emphasizes.

– It is stated that “Negro” shouldn’t be in dictionaries anymore, but it absolutely must be!

It should be a word to look up, but there should be clear markers which indicate that it is perceived to be deteriorative, that it is outdated et cetera, says Henriksen.

– Not in the least for those who are not familiar with Norwegian, it is important that these words are included and that it is explained when not to be used and why they are not used, he says.

The same applies to foreign and old fashioned words, which there are thousands of to be found in the dictionary.

English is allowed

NAOB is a so-called descriptive dictionary when it comes to selection of words. It describes the language as it is used. Thus, words and expressions from English are also included, if used as a natural part of Norwegian.

This applies, for example, to professional expressions such as «controller», «supply ships» and «case». It’s up to each individual to use the English terms, or to use Norwegian alternative words, which are often stated.

– We do not really decide if we like the word, or if it should be replaced by a Norwegian synonym. Is it used in Norwegian-language contexts frequently, and without quotes, that’s the case, says Petter Henriksen.

From December 21st you can look up and explore the dictionary on the NAOB website. The Christmas holidays can be useful. You can search using free text search, and one article leads to the next, ad infitum. The editorial staff welcomes feedback from the public.

Facts about the Norwegian Academy’s dictionary

  • Contains 225,000 articles and 70 million characters, which in a traditional book form would fill 12 volumes.
  • NAOB contains over 3,500 new words, that is, words that have entered the language recently and / or are established since the year 2000
  • S is the supreme most popular single letter – 15 percent of articles start on S.
  • X is the least-used letter, with only 48 articles. Secondly, follow Q (61) and Z (141).
  • Most words originate in Germanic languages, more than 13,000 in total. Many other borrowed words come from Latin and English (both over 10,000), followed by French, Greek and Italian.
  •  NAOB tracks over 7,000 individual words back to the Norse, while over 2,500 are from Danish, more than 1,800 from Swedish and about 200 from Icelandic. Only 33 words origins from Sami.
  • The dictionary has cost NOK 100 million, whereof 80 million from the Ministry of Culture and 20 million from private contributors, including the Free Word Foundation.


© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today