Today’s word is not one to use in polite company: ett knull means ‘an act of sexual intercourse’. The one-word English translation would be ‘fuck’, except it’s probably even more vulgar (knull is never used in any other context, like ‘fuck’ can be used as an expression of frustration, surprise, or an intensifier).
It’s been used in both Norwegian and Swedish for centuries, and comes from the verb knulle.
But while in Swedish, its used in compound words like knullkompis, Norwegians tend to fall back on the English “fuck buddy”).
Why are we talking about this word today?
Well, when Marvel Comics launched an ad campaign to tease a new villain arriving to their universe this year, the slogan was “knull is coming” (that’s the name of the character). Needless to say, they probably didn’t get the reaction they intended from their Norwegian fanbase.
You do know that you just hashtagged the word f**k in Norwegian and Swedish? #knull
— Knut Olav Gleditsch (@Gam3rEvolved) July 2, 2020
It didn’t take long for users on Twitter to cast around looking for the person who came up with the name, and Marvel writer Donny Cates gamely came forwards shortly afterwards.
Knull didn’t always have a sexual connotation, since it originally meant ‘to bump’ or ‘to push’. It comes from an Old Germanic word, and is related to the verb knüllen in today’s German, which might make Norwegian speakers giggle but actually means “to crumple”.