It was not my plan to write about two Norwegian words in a row, but today’s events compelled me to do so anyway. The word of the day is utepils, one of my favourite words from my mother tongue.
The word appears in a book I was given recently, ‘The untranslatables’ by C. J. Moore. It is a very entertaining guide to untranslatable words from all over the world, sprinkled with some general knowledge and anecdotes about the different languages. There is a lot of comedy for language geeks in there, including statements like ‘it [Danish] is no language, it’s a throat infection!’ Utepils is one of four Norwegian words mentioned.
The definition in the book is actually not entirely correct, but I will give it to you anyway:
‘utepils [oot-er-pillss] (noun)
You have to live through the long dark months of a Norwegian winter to appreciate the annual Norwegian rite of utepils. Literally it means “the first drink of the year taken out of doors”. Easter is barely past, with its tradition of hyttepåske – your Easter visit to your remote cabin – and the days are at last getting longer. Although it’s still practically freezing, everyone is queueing up to invite you to a first utepils get-together ar their favourite bar.’*
Actually, utepils simply means any beer enjoyed outside, at any time of the year, but it is true that the first one of the season is a much anticipated ritual. You know spring is on its way when norwegians brave the chilling temperatures and gather around their pints, sometimes even wrapped in blankets. The practice continues throughout the year though – nothing says summer like utepils.
The word itself is made up of two words, ute (‘outside’) and pils, which is simply short for Pilsner, the type of lager beer most commonly consumed in Norway. Interestingly, pils is also used as a slang verb (‘å pilse’), meaning simply ‘to drink beer’. So when you are getting together for an utepils you are pilsing.
The inspiration for this post was of course that I had the first utepils of the year today. In a way it is like the first ice cream of the year, but for adults. And today’s brew was a proper celebration of spring, the sun was shining and coats were coming off (I have on occasion enjoyed the first utepils in Norway in snow, encouraged by lines such as ‘Oh, come on, it’s a little sunny!’ )
When the sun comes out in Norfolk, the students emerge from the library, and today the campus was buzzing with people enjoying the first utepils of spring, although they did perhaps not know that was what they were doing.
*The untranslatables, C. J. Moore (Chambers) p. 61