A few Norwegian transport operators celebrated April Fool’s Day on Monday by claiming they were changing their names – all in a humorous jab at state railway NSB, which really is changing its name in an expensive move many wish was a joke. Norwegian media, meanwhile, have largely dropped their tradition of publishing fictional April Fool’s stories, out of concerns they’ll now be accused of generating fake news.
Oslo’s public transit service Oslo Sporveier was first out Monday morning with a so-called press release stating that it was changing its name to OY. The new name was said to be inspired by the words “Oslo” and an old Norse word “Yppare” (best). The actual Norwegian word oy can also be used in a manner similar to “Wow” in English.
“We want to create a strong and marked impression for everyone who sees, travels on and experiences our transport service,” Oslo Sporveier’s boss Cato Hellesjø was quoted as saying. “They can react with a positive outburst resulting from enthusiasm, like ‘OY, here they come!’ When we create good economic results, folks can think, ‘OY, they’re so clever,’ and when we set new passenger records, they can say ‘OY, just think how they managed that!’
Sporveier even offered an illustration of a new logo with the name, noting that since it was so short, it would be cheaper to set up new signs to replace those in need of renewal. “We can say that this is a redistribution and reallocation of our resources in a more responsible manner,” Hellesjø stated.
‘DiT’ and ‘LY’
State highway department Statens vegvesen also announced an alleged name change, to the shorter DiT (“there,” in Norwegian). “DiT shows direction,” highway boss Terje Moe Gustavsen wrote in a mock press release, adding that folks can also say “now we’re going DiT (there).” He also added that funding for the name change would be demanded from owners of electric cars.
Norway’s state agency in charge of public property (Statsbygg) also announced a name change, to LY, another short name that means “shelter” in Norwegian but which also is most similar to the much-debated and ridiculed new name that NSB has chosen, Vy, at an estimated and painfully real cost of several hundred million kroner. “Statsbygg has given shelter to state employees for more than 200 years,” its chief executiv e Harald Vaagaasar Nikolaisen, state on April 1st. “It’s therefore completely natural for us to take this modern, fresh name and get rid of the old state name.”
Riding out the ridicule
NSB’s much-criticized bosses, who were met with a storm of criticism and ridicule when they announced their actual name change, were said to be taking all the teasing in stride. “Vy has already been used in many arenas, in comedy shows, climate protests and much more,” NSB’s communications chief told state broadcaster NRK. “If we can inspire others, we think that’s just fine.”
Even the national authority on the Norwegian language, Språkrådet, which was among those criticizing NSB’s choice of Vy, got into the act on Monday. It sent out a announcement that it was merging with the Danish and Swedish language councils and that they together were establishing a new council to be called OrdNORD. Språkrådet director Åse Wetås, who has been in a highly public conflict with NSB’s CEO over NSB’s name change, claimed the new name for a merged council was meant to portay it as “an overall supplier of language experiences.”
While the public agencies had fun with their April Fool’s jokes, Norwegian media have grown more serious. Gone are the days when NRK itself and major newspapers like Aftenposten and VG would publish stories that often prompted readers to act, like when they once lined up outside Vinmonopolet outlets with buckets after reading that excess red wine could be tapped right out of the cask. Now, in these times of polarized debate, allegations of fake news and the fact that joke stories published online risk being re-read from archives without readers noticing their April 1 datelines, April Fool’s stories can simply cause more trouble than laughs.