Norwegian phrase of the day: Skjegget i postkassa

Have you ever wondered what Norwegians say when they find themselves in a spot of bother?

Norwegian phrase of the day: Skjegget i postkassa
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know this expression?

Skjegget i postkassa is perhaps one of the most common Norwegian slang expressions used in both professional and casual conversations. Without knowing the meaning of this phrase, you could find yourself pretty lost and confused in a discussion if you took what it means literally. 

What does it mean? 

Skjegget i postkassa directly translated means, “The beard in the mailbox”. 

It has nothing to do with a literal beard or a literal mailbox. Created in the 1950s, the expression is often used to describe when someone gets into a pinch or gets into trouble. It could also be used to describe when someone doesn’t fully achieve something that they wanted to do. 

Similar English expressions that compare to Skjegget i postkassa are “caught in a jam” or “stuck between a rock and a hard place”. 

Use it like this 

Så, til slutt ender du opp med skjegget i postkassa.“So in the end, you end up with the beard in the mailbox.”

Kommende generasjoner vil sitte med skjegget i postkassen. – “Future generations will sit with their beard in the mailbox.”

Member comments

  1. There is a similar expression from the Midwest US, home to a large number of Scandinavian descendants …
    “Don’t get your ‘teet’ caught in the wringer!” Wringers were attachments on old washing machines. Wet clothes would be passed through the wringer to wring out excess water. Bending over too close to the wringer might result in getting caught in it. Ouch!

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Norwegian expression of the day: Knute på tråden

When there’s an issue between two people, there may be a “knot on the rope”. 

Norwegian expression of the day: Knute på tråden

What does it mean? 

Knute på tråden means a ‘knot on the rope’. The expression is an idiom which describes a problem between two people. 

It’s used to say that two people share a strained relationship or aren’t on speaking terms rather than referring to a specific issue. 

For example, you’d use it to notice that two people aren’t getting on rather than to specify exactly what is happening between the pair. 

The term isn’t just used for romantic relationships but also between family members and friends too. 

If you are at a function and know two people not speaking or trying to avoid one another, then you would be able to describe them as having a not between them. 

This isn’t the only term involving knots in Norway. There is also hogge knuten over, which means to deal with an issue in an efficient or ruthless (sometimes reckless manner). It means to cut the knot off, eliminating it entirely. 

A similar saying in English may be “to pull the bandaid right off”. 

Use it like this:

Linde nekter å reise hjem til jul, det er en knute i tråden mellom henne og hennes lillesøster

(Linde refuses to travel home for Christmas. There is a knot in the thread between her and her little sister.)

 La du merke til at det er en knute i tråden mellom Jonas og faren hans?

(Did you notice that there is a knot in the thread between Jonas and his father?).