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Norwegian word of the day: Bjørnetjeneste

If someone tells you to reconsider doing something because it is a bjørnetjeneste, take a second to look at the bigger picture. 

Norwegian word of the day: Bjørnetjeneste
Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know this?

A tjeneste or, “service” is typically seen as a helpful act. But a bjørnetjeneste is a service that can do more bad than good. 

What does it mean?

Bjørnetjeneste is a compound word. Bjørne or, “bear” plus tjeneste or, “service”. A bear service. In English you would use the word disservice. 

A bear service, or disservice, is really a non-service that produces a negative result. 

A bjørnetjeneste is a Norwegian word that stems from an old French fable about a bear who wanted to chase a fly away from its master’s nose. Only to end up cruising his head while attempting to do so.

A bjørnetjeneste can be used for both small and large negative outcomes. For example, if you tie your child’s shoes everyday instead of letting them do it themselves, then you are committing a bjørnetjeneste because they will never learn how to tie their shoes. 

Or let’s say you’re the manager in a shop and it is necessary that your employees show up on time for their shifts. You would be doing a bjørnetjeneste if never reprimanded them when they constantly showed up late. 

Use it like this

Du gjør ham en bjørnetjeneste ved å ikke si det. – You’re doing him a disservice by not telling him.

Du bør ikke le med ham når han er slem. Å støtte ham ville være en bjørnetjeneste. – You shouldn’t laugh with him when he is mean. Supporting him would be a disservice. 

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For members


Norwegian expression of the day: Grevens tid 

Is it a good thing, or a bad thing, if you manage to do something in the "counts time"? Let's find out. 

Norwegian expression of the day: Grevens tid 

What does it mean? 

As mentioned in the intro, “grevens tid” literally translates to the “count’s time”. The count’s time means arriving at a good or lucky moment or achieving or preventing something, typically at the last minute. 

Catch a vase just before it hits the ground, or make it to the station just in time to catch your train? Then you did it in the count’s time. 

The term is said to have originated in Sweden and refers to Count Per Brahe Dy, who became governor of Finland in 1637. It was customary for a count to arrive late to events during the period. This is because, typically, the highest status one held, the more likely they were to come later. 

However, these days the saying isn’t used to describe when someone arrives “fashionably late” to use an English expression. 

Use it like this: 

Nå kom du i grevens tid 

(You came just at the right time.)

Du kom i grevens tid, jeg skulle akkurat til å ringe!

(You came just at the right time, I was just about to call you!)

Nå kom du i grevens tid! Vi skulle akkurat til å spise! 

(You came just at the right time, we are about to eat!)