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Norwegian word of the day: Pålegg

If there is one thing Norwegians love more than bread, it's spread.

Norwegian word of the day: Pålegg
Do you have a favourite? Photo by Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know this word?

Pålegg is a blanket term used to describe many food items in Norwegian cuisine. If you’re asked to bring a pålegg to a social gathering or want to better understand what Norwegians consume daily, then you’re going to need to understand the word pålegg. 

What does it mean?

Pålegg is a collection of food products that are commonly put on top of bread. Derived from the words legg på, which means, “put on”. 

There is no direct translation that English speakers can use in place of pålegg. But most often, the word “spread” is used to describe this word that can be used for many (and we do mean many) food products. 

The most common pålegg found in Norwegian households is jam, cheese, thinly sliced meats, kavier (tubed caviar), and leverpostei (liver pâté).

Locals have their favourites. And it is always fun to discuss what your co-workers or friends prefer on their bread. 

Norwegians love their bread. And traditionally, pålegg is used for three meals a day. Breakfast, lunch, and kveldsmat or “evening food”. If you have found your favourite selection of pålegg in this country, then pat yourself on the back for completing a massive step in the integration process! 

What about butter? 

Ah, the great debate. Locals are undecided on if butter should be called a pålegg. Technically, it is as it is often smeared on top of bread. But it is common for a Norwegian to say they had a slice of bread with butter and a specific pålegg. And on a shopping list, butter would typically be written as a separate food item in addition to pålegg on the list. You can decide which side you want to be on. But to avoid a sceptically raised eyebrow, perhaps don’t tell a Norwegian your favourite pålegg is butter. 

Use it like this 

Kan du kjøpe ost? Det er min favorittpålegg – Can you buy cheese? It’s my favourite spread. 

Jeg er veldig glad i brødskiver med pålegg – I really like bread slices with spread.

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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?).