Tuesday, February 25, 2003

The Real Language
I just downloaded and installed Opera on this computer. Now Opera, while being the fastest browser on earth, is a browser that speaks not just Norwegian, but new Norwegian.

If you don't know about Norwegian language debates, you are ignorant of something essentially Norwegian. We don't fight over land or religion, gender or race. Norwegians fight for, about and with language. Norwegian was actually lost in the black death. The entire literate class died in the plague, and the country was repopulated with public servants, teachers and priests from Denmark. That forced the linguistic drift towards Danish and later, after the Danes got us involved in the Napoleonic wars on the french side, towards Swedish when all the same functions were replaced with Swedes.

The idea of a Norway seperate from Denmark and Sweden, an independent nation of Norwegians, was a rebellion from the districts against the capital: west and north against the south and east, farmland against urban areas. And the most important activist was a man called Ivar Aasen. He was important not for his political views, but for the research and linguistic creativity. Out of language spoken in the Norwegian countryside, he reconstructed an independent Norwegian language, one based on how the people spoke, rather than the upper middle (danified) class. And in modern times, the desire to use new Norwegian was even strong enough to shift Microsoft.

I am linguistically more than a little schizophrenic: I speak new Norwegian, write book Norwegian and read English... but with Opera, I surf the net in New Norwegian! There's something about words like "snøggbufferen" or "utsjånad" - not to mention "bunad" - that makes me feel like I am home, linguistically home. Opera speaks the language in which I think my most sincere thoughts. Perhaps not the brightest, perhaps not the most sophisticated, but the thoughts that are deeply true. Don't trust me if I tell you "I love you". But if I look away from you, hide my eyes, shy and scared, and whisper "eg elskar deg", then it is real.

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