You can bet you’re in Minnesota when the annual edition of the Adult Education Class schedule begins with the following first choice
under the Food Category – “Follow the Bone – Deer Cutting.” Furthermore, it promises the basic skills of field dressing, “skinning and cleaning of the carcass as well as how to cut your deer, from pulling back straps for chops, to the hind for roasts, and jerky and trim for ground venison.”
In the General Interest Category, listed right after “Coupon Workshop” is a class entitled “Firearms Carry and Renewal Class.” The explanation stipulates that the student must be at least 21 years of age and promises to cover morals, ethics and tactics (?) but specifically states that “the student is responsible for providing his/her own firearm and ammunition (50 rounds).”
Smack in the middle of “Holiday Cookies” and “Nutrition for Seniors” is my favorite and personal nemesis – “Lefse.” I know from experience that the technique and secret of this class involves a lot of cursing and throwing about of flour. But that’s another story.
And finally – under World Languages the first and only entry is Norwegian!
In spite of the fact I was raised by two people who spoke English as a second language, my Norwegian/Swedish language skills are miniscule at best. At age seven I tried to make a little dictionary of my own. “Grammy,” I would plead as I penciled in a tiny notebook, “how do you say – please make me some cocoa with marshmallows on top?” I was a scholar geek even then and truly wanted to learn the language of my roots, especially the important phrases. Mom and Grandma however, seemed not as interested in teaching me these skills, and I always suspected that the underlying motive lay in their ability to “talk over my head.”
However my godfather Norman, who was born in Bergen, taught me to say “Kan du snakker Norsk, Far?” (Can you speak Norwegian, Father?) at an early age. It was to be a surprise I would trot out when meeting my father coming down the gangplank after one of his sea voyages.
Of course I grew up with lots of “takks” (thanks) – tusan takk, mange takk, takk fur maten – the last one being “thanks for the food.” And then there was Velkommen and God Jul – most everyone knows those, and the most important of all – SKAL! – which came in handy with many toastings over Shirley Temples.
That’s about it except for “Uff Da! which it turns out, is pretty much untranslatable. Whenever I would ask my mother to explain, she would just laugh and say something like, “Oh I don’t know. In English it wouldn’t be funny. But it just is.” People in Minnesota regularly trot is out and seem to feel better for it. One person explained that in a way it was similar to Charlie Brown’s exclamation of “Good Grief!” One thing is certain – “Uff Da” has a sound that perfectly matches an emotion.
My Norwegian vocabulary, then, includes only the ability to ask if someone speaks what I do not, comes in handy for the purposes of eating or drinking, and expounds on something funny but untranslatable.
Maybe I should take the class.
TAK FUR MATEN