Norwegian expression of the day: Du skal ikke skue hunden på hårene

There’s a lot more to a dog than its fur, or so Norwegians say. 

You shouldn't judge a dog by its fur.
As you'll be aware, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Caption Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash / Nicolas Raymond/FlickR

What does it mean? 

Directly translated, it means ‘You shouldn’t judge a dog on its hairs’. Almost everyone will have heard of its closely related English colloquialism ‘you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover’. 

Essentially the two mean the same thing, meaning you shouldn’t jump to assumptions about how someone or something looks on the outside and that it’s what’s inside that counts. 

Why do I need to know this? 

This saying is a classic example of how languages will often share idioms with very similar meanings, but will have slightly different wordings. 

Another example would be ‘storm i et vannglass’ (storm in a glass of water), which is an exaggeration or escalation of something not very important- similar to a storm in a teacup. 

Å grave ned stridsøksen (to bury the battle-axe) would be another example, being a close cousin of burying the hatchet. 

However, it isn’t clear whether the teacup is added to the English saying and the battle-axe added to the Norwegian one is done to add some regional flavour to the expressions. 

Use it like this: 

Min nye kollega ser ut som han ikke tar jobben sin seriøst for han kommer på morgenmøtet med joggebukser.

(It seems like my new colleague doesn’t take his job seriously. He always shows up to the morning meeting in sweatpants.) 

Det kan hende du tar feil. du må ikke skue hunden på hårene

(You might be wrong. Don’t judge a book by its cover) 

Although in this case, the person taking exception to their colleague’s dress sense may be onto something. 

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Norwegian expression of the day: Katta i sekken 

If you've bought something online that's completely different to what was advertised, this Norwegian saying should help sum things up. 

Norwegian expression of the day: Katta i sekken 

What does it mean?  

Katta i sekken means “cat in the bag”, unlike the English expression where having something in the bag is great, you don’t want to find a cat in your sack, metaphorically speaking. 

The expression describes a scenario or situation where you’ve bought something that is different to advertised, underwhelming, or if you’ve been ripped off and paid way more than the item is worth. 

It’s used as a verb, for example, Å kjøpe katta i sekken, (To buy a cat in the bag). Also, note that it’s typically the slang katta that’s used rather katt, or katten. 

The term dates back to the middle ages, and a possible origin of the phrase is the story of Till Eulenspiegel, where a cat is sewn into a rabbit skin and sold as a hare. 

Several languages use the term or have their own version of the expression. However, some languages will refer to a pig in the sack, like Swedish, while others use cats as metaphors for the unwanted item. In English, the closest expression is “A pig in a poke.” 

What about ‘letting the cat out of the bag’? 

This term can get confusing in its similarity to “letting the cat out of the bag, ” which means revealing a secret. In Norwegian this is: katta er ute av sekken. 

You may hear someone say something like Fikk du med deg det Vilde sa? Jeg antar katta er ute av sekken. This means: Did you hear what Vilde said? I guess the cat’s out of the bag.

Therefore, if you hear someone talking about cats in bags, it’s best to pay close attention to ensure you’ve listened to the expression correctly. 

Use it like this: 

Jeg kjøpte en telefon på Siden det ikke fungerer, kjøpte jeg katta i sekken.

(I bought a phone on Since it doesn’t work, I bought a cat in the bag).