Cursing Abroad: Danish Insults To Round Out Your Studies

You could self-own yourself with a ‘failure beer.’ Or you could go on the offensive.
July 20, 2020
Cursing Abroad: Danish Insults To Round Out Your Studies

To understand the art of delivering Danish insults, you have to understand the sense of humor that distinguishes a culture where making fun of someone is actually a bridge to greater intimacy.

For the most part, there’s a cultural consensus in Denmark that says “I’ll leave you alone if you leave me alone.” People don’t want to be hassled by strangers in public or forced into small talk — particularly if it’s an American-style imposition of “how are you?”. But assuming you have a reason to be conversing at all, the real test of friendship can sometimes look like swapping dry, sarcastic barbs with each other.

Danish insults can be friendly at their core, legitimately intended to provoke, or, in some cases, aimed at yourself. It’s not uncommon to offer a “failure beer” or “failure cake” to others as a way of cheekily acknowledging your own mistakes. No harm, no foul — not when there’s delicious dessert and self-deprecating humor involved.

Anyway, you’re probably reading this because you want to learn how to dish it out (not just to take it). Here are a few prickly phrases to keep in your back pocket.

Din mor — Everyone loves a good “yo mama” reference. Here’s one in Danish.

Du kan få en prut og pille i — Lit. “you can have a fart to play with.” This is specifically for all those times when someone asks you for a favor and you wish to turn them down in the most abrasive of ways.

Kegle — The Danes have a word for “dork,” but it translates roughly to “bowling pin” or “skittle.” Taste the rainbow?

Klaphat — A klaphat is a hat with clapping hands attached to it, which is really just a metaphor for a big dumb idiot. But Danes have taken the metaphor and run with it, because people actually wear them to sporting matches.

Klaptorsk — Are you sensing a theme here? Here, we have a “clapping cod.” Wouldn’t a fish look pretty stupid trying to clap? Then you understand.

Milde Moses — This probably doesn’t technically belong on a list of Danish insults, but if you want to express your frustration at someone or something in an endearing way, you can curse at “gentle Moses” — the Danish version of shouting “Jesus Christ!”.

Narhat — Perhaps another variation on the theme of “klaphat,” a narhat is a “fool’s hat.” No clapping hands this time, because maybe they’re not even worthy of the applause.

Pikansjos — Feels a little boring and predictable to call someone a dick, right? Call them a “dick anchovy” instead.

Røvbanan — It’s not entirely clear what’s implied when you call someone an “ass banana,” but it sure has a nice ring to it.

Skidespræller — “Shit wriggler.” For when someone’s not just a piece of crap, but an animated one.

Vatnisse — There are ways to avoid masculinizing the concept of courage. In English, we might say someone “lacks the balls” to do something. But in Danish, you can just call them a “cotton wool elf.”

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Author Headshot
Steph Koyfman
Steph is a writer, lindy hopper, and astrologer. She’s also a language enthusiast who grew up bilingual and had an early love affair with books. She has mostly proved herself as a New Yorker, and she can introduce herself in Swedish thanks to Babbel. She also speaks Russian and Spanish, but she’s a little rusty on those fronts.
Steph is a writer, lindy hopper, and astrologer. She’s also a language enthusiast who grew up bilingual and had an early love affair with books. She has mostly proved herself as a New Yorker, and she can introduce herself in Swedish thanks to Babbel. She also speaks Russian and Spanish, but she’s a little rusty on those fronts.

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