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The Danish Shibboleth of rødgrød med fløde

Danes are fond of having foreigners try to say rød-grød med fløde, which means red pudding with cream. It is somewhat of a shibboleth, a phrase which native speakers can say easily and foreigners cannot say at all. After World War II when American soldiers found their way to Copenhager and started dating Danish girls there was a conspiracy among the Danes to tell any American who asked how to say I love you in Danish that it was rød-grød med fløde.

One major source of the difficulty is that the Danish r is entirely different from the English r. The Danish r is a gutteral that is articulated in the back of the mouth whereas the English r is artuculated in the front of the mouth. It helps to consider the Danish r as hr.

Another major source of the difficulty is the Danish letter ø. The sound of this letter does not occur in English. Therefore no explanation in terms of English exists. Ø is somewhat like that of eu with the lips pushed forwar and rounded. However ø is more clipped than eu

The d at the end of Danish syllables is pronounced like something between a very soft d and the th in other. The e at the end of the word fløde is pronounced, as an unstressed uh.

So roughly the proper pronunciation of rødgrød med fløde would be as if it were spelled hreuth ghreuth midth fleuduh, noting that the th is the sound in other and not the sound in Ruth.


Personal anecdote:

Rødgrød med fløde was available in the U.S. as a product called Danish Dessert. I made it for my children, Sam and Storm, and tried to called it by its Danish name. However I did not know the proper pronunciation and called rude grude met flude. Sam and Storm like it and later Sam asked "Could we have so more of that Rude Nude Miss Flude?"


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