Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Uff da!" Defined

My maternal grandparents, both second-generation Norwegian Americans, sprinkled their conversations with “uff da” and “nei da” as liberally as they used sugar cubes in their coffee. So it was fun when, skimming Sunday’s Star Tribune newspaper, I came across Karen Youso’s column: “Uff da! What it means, when to use it.”

She defines “uff da” as a “Scandinavian expression used to express compassion, empathy or annoyance.” Youso says “nei da” is “used to show surprise or shock in a negative way or when something unbelievable happens.” She also gives a definition for “fy da,” saying it expresses disgust, revulsion and horror. She even gives examples of when each saying is appropriate: “You use ‘nei da’ if your property taxes go up 100 percent.”

I clearly remember Grandma comingling the sayings to become “nei fy da” and “uff da nei.” In fact, my brothers and I still use her hybrid sayings in mock horror or frustration when, for example, we’re playing cards with each other and our partner makes a lousy play.

I’d love to hear if these Scandinavian expressions—or variations of them—are alive and well in your family’s lexicon. Email us at


Debbie said...

This is so funny! Those expressions were the ones my grandparents and even my parents used. My grandmother didn't drive but she was a back seat driver. I always remember her saying "Uff da Henry" and putting the breaks on in her passenger seat; lol.

Thanks for the memory!


Kathy said...

When we were little, my two sisters and bother would "occasionally" get into a bit of trouble, as good little children will do sometimes. I can hear my Mother's voice saying "Har du set pa maken" as clear as if it were today. This was enough for us to stop and check out what the problem was. Of course it was never MY fault. This became a common phrase throughout our childhood and today is used by my children but has been shortened to "Har du set". They have children of their own, you see, so the reason for the phrase continues. In our area of mostly Italians and Irish it is neat that the expression I grew up with is alive and well and now my grandchildren have started in on it too.

De 4 årstidene said...

Hi. What a great blog!!!! I`m Norwegian and my hobby is genealogy-search.
I think this blog is so great! I just want to comment "nei da", we often use this, I guess every day, as if we don`t bother or it doesent matter. Nei da, it does not matter :-)
Ceep up the good work you are doing on this blog.And of course Uff da, it`s is to read alot on the Facebook comments if someones are sick, and they feel sorry for that person. And if we spoild milk on the floor...haha. I did`nt know it was common in USA before I watch the movie "Farge". Funny :-)