rødgrød med fløde
The Danes have a sort of stewed fruit dish called rødgrød med fløde. I haven’t eaten it yet (though it sounds yummy) but I’ve had to say the name of it several times now, as my pronounciation is apparently rather humorous. It’s one of those phrases that foreigners can never, ever learn to say properly. So just in case any of you ever travel to Denmark, I’m going to write out a pronounciation guide. Don’t tell anyone, or you’ll be that much less impressive when you get there.
“rødgrød” – the Danish R is to be produced with a bit of a rasp in the back of the throat, but not so much that you lose your precious phlegm. Purse your lips and grunt for the vowel, and then finish the syllable with a sort of numb-tongued bastard cross between a soft th, an l, and the noise a fish might make if it were surprised. You’ve just managed to say the word for “red”. The second syllable is the same, only with a G in front of it.
“med fløde” – we do an exercise in Danish class where we cross out all the letters of a word that aren’t pronounced. This works best with something like “selvfølgelig” which is pronounced about like “seFULly” but you can also do it with “med” – cross out the d, and if you’re really feeling adventurous you can probably get rid of most of the e as well. Fløde works exactly like rødgrød, but the ø is a bit rounder, and you also give a passing nod to the e on the end. After you’ve bitten the end of your tongue trying to say the d, this is easy. And once you’ve done that, all you have to do is wait for the thunderous applause from your new, awe-struck Danish friends, and start hitting the busking circuits around Copenhagen.
Of course, I don’t mean to imply that Danish is all horrid grunts and syllabic carnage – they’ve got lots of pretty, flute-like vowels that I can’t pronounce either, and the ultimate effect isn’t nearly as funny as, say, the Swedish Chef, though there is an etymological relation. And despite my occasional frustration, I’m fairly proud of what I’ve managed to learn in just a week and a half. I can order a beer (lots of practice on that one) and if the waiter deviates from any of the scripts in my book, I can successfully communicate my utter confusion and ask that he speak slowly and/or in English, or French if the situation is really desperate. If that fails, we can have a nice conversation about what time it is, or how to count to a thousand. I’m practically fluent, I tell you.