Two years ago, I went on a personal journey to Denmark, the world’s most underrated gay destination. Not only is Denmark the happiest country in the world, Danes report the largest average penis size and boast the highest ratio of bottoms to tops, according to Manhunt Daily. The most famous piece of Danish literature involves a mermaid so desperate for some Danish manmeat, she loses her voice to a seawitch. Hans Christian Andersen is history’s gayest Dane.
As a Germanic language, Danish is very close to English, however it’s gone through so many historical sound changes, you can’t tell that nøgen [ˈnʌjən] is “naked.”
Fortunately, the Danish people are as fond of sausages as I am. Because of Copenhagen’s bizarre economy, the only affordable food options aside from vodka and cinnamon buns are the numerous pølsevogne [ˈpølsəˌvɒwˀnə] – lit. “sausage wagons” that line the city’s public spaces. Sausage carts are such a big part of Danish culture, that instead of water cooler talk they have pølsesnak [ˈpølsəˌsnɑg̊] – “sausage chat.”
At the sausage carts themselves, Danes have a code of idioms that puts Starbucks-speak to shame. A hotdog can be ordered not only with pølse but also with phrases like synkronsvømmer [synˈkʁoˀnˌsvœmʌ] – “synchronized swimmer” and nissepik [ˈnesəˌpeg̊] – “gnome cock.” The most delicious variety is the French hotdog, lubricated with dressing and impaled in a baguette. Its insensitive moniker: indianer i sovepose [endiˈæˀnʌ i ˈsɒwəˌpoːsə] – “Indian in a sleeping bag.” A død ørn i rede [døðˀ ɶɐ̯ˀn i ʁɛːðə] – “dead eagle in a nest” will get you a half chicken over french fries and you can top it off with an yverbetændelse [ˈyˀvʌbeˌtεnˀəlsə] – “udder infection,” that is, yogurt.
Like German, Danish has a way of stringing together very long words. The term for “contraceptive” is svangerskabsforebyggelse [ˈsvɑŋˀʌsg̊absˌfɒːɒˌbyg̊əlsə] — from the same roots as English “swinging-ship’s-before-building.” It is, literally, the thing you take before you wind up building a belly that swings outward. Some linguists see these words as a sign that Proto-Germanic was more of a mixed language or creole (the Germanic Substrate Hypothesis).
If tracking the Proto-Germanic Urheimat is too much for the heat of the moment, stick to kondom [kʌnˈdoˀm].
The strong grasp on idiom held by Danish was a great detriment to my Little Mermaid-esque search for Danish manmeat. Noting the international consensus that sausages resemble cocks, I tried the following come-on, referencing the vendors at the pølsevogne:
Skal du være min pølsemand? [sg̊al du ˈvɛːʌ min ˈpølsəˌmanˀ]
Will you be my sausage man?
My bespectacled comrade looked confused. He asked:
Hvad siger du? [va ˈsiːʌ du]
What are you saying (talking about)?
Jeg snakker om din pølse… [jɑj ˈsnɑg̊ʌ ʌm din ˈpølsə] Dit kød? [did̥ køð]
I’m talking about your sausage… Your meat?
My response used both noun genders; what used to be male and female genders like in Romance languages has become “common gender” as in din pølse, while the neuter gender remained separate, dit kød.
“Pølse” mener lort, skat. [ˈpølsə ˈmeːnʌ ˈloɐ̯ˀd, sg̊ad̥]
“Sausage” means shit, sweetie.
I certainly hadn’t expected “sausage” to euphemize “shit,” especially to the exclusion of cock. Fortunately, he found my mistake amusing, or the only pik (cock) I’d be getting was the aforementioned nissepik. I backed down on pølsemand, and settled for trækkerdreng [ˈtʁag̊ʌˌdʁaŋˀ], “whore boy.”
After my malapropism, we went to his garden house. Many Copenhageners keep garden houses in the suburbs as a home-away-from-home. It’s a great place to get some fresh air on the weekends, and perhaps whip your dick out on Skype while surrounded by campy plastic flamingos. Unable to find the washroom, I noted:
En badeværelse ser jeg ikke… [eˀn ˈbæːðəˌvæɐ̯ʌlsə seˀʌ jɑj ig̊ə]
I don’t see a bathroom…
This sentence shows off the V2 sentence structure common to most Germanic languages. Any clause (in this case “a bathroom”) can be pushed to the front as long as the verb is the second element. There was no washroom, only the community bathroom down the path, or the backyard where all the garden gnomes could see. I chose the former.
Altså, gør du gerne sport i 2’eren? [ˈalˀsʌ gɶɐ̯ du ˈgæɐ̯nə sb̥ɒd̥ i ˈtoˀənʌ]
So, you like anal?
This expression was a reference to the sports program on Channel 2, as well as the “number two” euphemism familiar to English speakers.
Jeg er øverst, men jeg sutter hellere pik. [jɑj æɐ̯ ˈøwˀʌsd̥, men jɑj ˈsud̥ʌ ˈhɛlʌʌ peg̊]
I’m a top, but I’d rather suck cock.
In your throat, a cock might reach a series of six muscles and valves — the larynx.
The larynx includes the vocal cords, which vibrate to produce voicing, and can raise or lower to affect pitch, accommodating tonal languages and well-endowed company. Danish has a peculiar use of the larynx, called the stød, which marks certain words with what varies from a constrained or closed glottis to even a shift in tone. While stød used to be a byproduct of single-syllable words in Old Norse, it is assigned arbitrarily to new words and must be memorized (it is “phonemic”). Kondom takes stød, while pis [pes] “piss” does not.
The stød is precisely the kind of thing that happens when languages generate tone. Danish also has “devoiced” consonants, like the ‘k’ in pik [peg̊] “cock” which keep a lowered glottis that usually comes with voiced consonants. When Chinese went through tonogenesis, this is the step that created low tones. Danish does not yet carry a full range of tones, but my friend certainly did. When I was done with him, I went out to the garden for a piss. He joked:
Havenisserne kan se dig! [ˈhæːvəˌnesənə ka seˀ dɑj]
The garden gnomes can see you!
Here I had gained the confidence to try out the feature of Danish I find most difficult. While English speakers are taught not to end sentences in prepositions, verb + preposition pairs are integral to all Germanic languages, adding shades of meaning to verbs that are often vague and hard to master. For example, from se “see” comes se til “watch.” Turning around, I gave him a wink, and replied:
Lad dem se til. [lað dəm seˀ tel]
Let them watch.