Salty language catches flak

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A bank executive in Oslo and a politician in southern Norway both caught criticism during the past week for using some fairly derogatory terms to describe a government minister and farmers. One regretted his remarks, one didn’t.

The Norwegian government recently settled a dispute with farmers over subsidy levels for the coming year, by handing over hundreds of millions in extra aid. That makes farmers and the food they produce even more expensive than before, and the head of international banking at Norway’s biggest bank, DnB NOR wasn’t pleased.

Ole Irgens, writing on his own blog, referred to the farmers as “jævla bønder,” which in its nicest choice of translation would be roughly equivalent to “cursed farmers.” It’s actually much worse, by Norwegian standards, and tantamount to swearing.

Irgens thought the farmers had received far too much taxpayer funding, and his blog item attracted immediate attention. Having second thoughts, Irgens changed the objectionable  “jævla” to “dyr” (expensive), and later deleted the entire item from his blog, but it was too late. Farmers have a traditionally high status in Norway, and the offended head of a local and powerful farming lobby called it “frightening” and “intolerable” that “one of the leading spokesmen for the country’s biggest bank can have such an attitude.”

DnB NOR officials were also less than pleased with Irgens’ published opinion, and found it necessary to clarify that “DnB NOR is fond of farmers.”

Meanwhile, Health Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen has lost lots of popularity after failing to halt plans to cut services at several local hospitals, cuts that may lead to their eventual shutdown. One of her own Labour Party colleagues is furious, and recently referred to her as “høne” (a hen).

“She is the supreme leader of health care in Norway and has behaved in a way worthy of strong criticism,” local government official Tove Skyttemyr told newspaper Agderposten. “She’s draining our hospital bit by bit. Now the hen needs to travel from Oslo down here to Sørlandet (southern Norway) to clarify things.”

Arendall Mayor Torill Rolstad Larsen, also from the Labour Party, thought Skyttemyr should retract her characterization, calling it “thoughtless and hopeless.” Skyttemyr was unrepentant.

Views and News staff