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Talk like a Norwegian

Having spent the last week or so in Edinburgh, I have on several occasions tried to explain what sort of weather we have in Norway at this time of year, and I have discovered a missing piece in the English education in Norwegian schools. While we obviously learn to describe the weather, we are not properly trained in describing temperatures below zero. I'm not talking about a standard sentence like "The temperature was -5 degrees Celcius", which I evidently know how to say, but about all the less formal words Norwegians use to avoid repeating themselves too much when talking about the weather in winter.

For example the word "minusgrader", which directly translated is "minus degrees", as in "Det var fem minusgrader" (it was five minus degrees). An excellent word in Norwegian, but I'm not too sure about the English translation. Along the same lines, we have "kuldegrader", which means "cold degrees" and can be used in exactly the same way as "minusgrader". Again, a perfectly normal word in Norwegian, but suited to make people think you are a crazy foreginer if you try it in English.

Among the more colourful (pun intended) words, we have the slightly less common expression "blå" (blue), refering to the fact that negative numbers on a thermometer are often blue. It can be used in the same way as "minusgrader", so for eksample "det er 13 blå ute" (it's 13 blue outside). Similarly, you can also say "kalde" (cold ones). If you are slightly more hardcore, you can talk about effective temperatures* below zero simply as "effektive". The correct way to do this is to sit outside your tent somewhere in the wilderness of Canada, looking into a camera you're holding yourself because it's only you and your dogs, bits of ice dangling from your beard, saying "Det er 15 kalde, omtrent 40 effektive" (It's 15 cold ones, about 40 effective).

So. Does the English language have a variety of words to describe temperatures below zero, only I were never taught them, or is Norwegian simply a richer language in this area? I suppose it makes sense that Norwegian has a lot of ways to talk about weather conditions that are quite common here, but what about Canada? Surely they talk about the weather there as well.

-Tor Nordam

*Known as wind chill, according to wikipedia.



Camilla,  21.10.10 14:05

I think the first one you are looking for is "below zero". As for the rest, I try not to think about that sort of weather.
Tim,  25.10.10 10:29

...we can say "it's minus five" or "it's five below" (though I think the latter may be commoner in America; not sure). I don't know of any slang terms like "blue" or "cold ones", but then, we don't get negative temperatures nearly as often as you do. Maybe in Canada they do have such slang; I'll ask a Canadian friend next chance I get.
Tim,  25.10.10 15:02

She only came up with "five below".

Same answer.
Tim,  25.10.10 15:10

Apparently in Russian they say "ten frost" for -10.


Anders K.,  25.10.10 17:12

Icelandic as well. Tíu stiga frost -- basically "Tenth degree of frost".