Monday, 10 May 2010


It is the time of year for one of my favourite words in Norwegian. It also happens to be the longest word in Norwegian. Put your reading specs on.


I am now officially cross-eyed from trying to check the spelling on that. And guess what, the ‘spell-check’ doesn’t agree with me. But I’m right.

It means, as hundreds of you will know, ‘confirmation preparation teaching planning hour.’

I have been reminded of this wonderful word by the smartly turned out people I kept spotting over the weekend...all dolled up in their ‘bunads’ (traditional Norwegian outfits) and off to celebrate with friends and family. Church bells have been ringing, flags have fluttered in the freezing wind, people have gathered at church and then elsewhere for formal meals of a celebratory nature.

It’s this time of year that many a teenager, usually the ones slighter younger than those involved in The Russ, is confirmed.....most likely into the Church of Norway, but by no means exclusively. Those being confirmed are required to attend classes before-hand. It is a rather specific set of circumstances that has led to the construction of this long, long word...along with the Norwegian habit of adding bits of words together in an ambitiously lengthy stream which, for some reason, we English speakers find fantastically witty and amusing, (but then again, British people are renowned for making everything into a joke).

As all these confirmations take place, if you didn’t happen to know which century you were in, there are moments when you could be witnessing something from hundreds of years ago....until you spot the glimmering cars in the car park outside the churches, or the bunad-clad maiden texting on her mobile in the porch. Any visitor to Norway will be struck by the churches here, of which there are over 1,600 throughout the nation. These buildings tell the story of Norway’s thousand year history of Christianity, and represent a long thread of memory that takes those who care to think about it right back to the Viking times. And, as we head towards Norway’s National Day next week, the season is awash with history, tradition, and celebration. It all seems very joyful and peaceful.

By way of contrast, every time I listen to the news from the UK part of me thinks why on earth are we going back to a country that currently has no obvious government, and where the financial turmoil both domestically and on a global scale appears to be spiralling out of control? After our UK election, some wag at home remarked, ‘the People have spoken. The only trouble is, nobody has any idea what they said.’

Oh well, time to go home, almost. And as I look at the bunads, the beautiful churches here, the local people dressing up and celebrating, I realise that these traditions are not my traditions....I am not Norwegian, I am not married to a Norwegian, my role as an active citizen is in Scotland, not necessarily here. So soon it will be time to go home and contribute to my own nation. I know that not every expat feels like this, so I’ll just have to blame it on my Presbyterian/Calvinist mindset, a trait that is buried very deep within.

I’m sure there must be some kind of extremely long word for that. Know any?


  1. Now that is indeed "unspeakably" Norsk! :-)

  2. Addofio
    When I remember the longest word in English, I'll write it here...brain not working today yet!

  3. Antidisestablishmentarianism.
    Not as long as the Norsk one.

  4. Longest English word is actually Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis