Friday, May 29, 2009


Went to Danish class last night and the teacher was describing the shirts that some of the guys were wearing so that we could learn the various adjectives - practical knowledge I guess if you wish to buy a specific type of shirt and lack eyes with which to view the merchandise.

He started with the obvious - describing it as a striped shirt. I think everyone can agree that for this particular shirt, 'striped' would be the apt adjective:

However, the next shirt he came to, and asked us to describe, led to a bit of discussion...

Okay, more of a little argument, and okay, it was just really me being difficult again. Sort of like the time another Danish teacher attempted to tell me that basketball and volleyball could be described as similar games, which he based solely on the fact that both have a 'ball', and I argued that in reality, basketball is more closely related to hockey, whereas volleyball would be more closely related to badminton. Yeah, I'm like that sometimes, and if I were the teacher I'd probably want to slap me upside the head, but that's not allowed in Denmark and besides, I'm the class entertainment. Without me, they'd all be asleep 30 minutes into the 2-1/2 hour class. But, I digress. Back to the shirts and my point.

We needed the equivalent of striped with which to describe the above shirt. So I said "på engelsk, det er 'plaid'" and then I quickly grabbed my dansk/engelsk dictionary to look up the danish word for plaid. Which, lo and behold is.. wait for it... PLAID. The teacher had decided to use another adjective to describe the shirt.. he chose "ternet". So with some speedy little page flipping, I found 'ternet' on the danish side of the book, which officially translates to "checkered".

When I said... "No no, that's plaid!" - and I then showed him that the danish dictionary translated the english plaid to the danish plaid, he looked at me strangely and said I was incorrect. Grumble.

Now, 'checkered' to me is the pattern you see on a flag at the racetrack - not the shirt pictured above. A checkered shirt, in my opinion, looks like this:

THAT is checkered. The one above it is plaid. Hmmph.

In Danish class, one of the important things we are taught is that when you have an opinion, you also need argumentation. So, I present to you, my argumentation:


1. any fabric woven of differently colored yarns in a crossbarred pattern.
2. a pattern of this kind.
3. a long, rectangular piece of cloth, usually with such a pattern and worn across the left shoulder by Scottish Highlanders.

4. having the pattern of a plaid.


1. marked by numerous and various shifts or changes; variegated: a checkered career.
2. marked by dubious episodes; suspect in character or quality: a checkered past.
3. marked with squares: a checkered fabric.
4. diversified in color; alternately light and shadowed: the checkered shade beneath trees. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2009.

His argumentation was that 'plaid' was only used for certain plaids, not all plaids (as if that makes any sense), as in the definition found under the NOUN plaid (3. a long, rectangular piece of cloth, usually with such a pattern and worn across the left shoulder by Scottish Highlanders.), not the adjective, mind you. HA!

So, what's your opinion?

(And, btw, if you're a certain Canadian reader who has a certain PLAID skirt wearing scot for a hubby, feel free to chime in!)


  1. Err yeah. English is not my native language so I just nodded politely when my Danish teacher told me that anything with criss-cross pattern is called "ternet" LOL

  2. The second shirt is most definitely plaid. My husband also agrees that it's plaid, so you've got the German vote. :)

  3. ROFL

    Well, everyone, I'm that "certain Canadian reader who has a certain PLAID skirt wearing scot for a hubby". I'd have to say that Patti's right. This time. Everyone knows how I dont like admitting anyone, but me, is right. Thats because it so rarely happens, I have just been acustomed to that way of life :-p But, I digress. Digressing must be a "July" thing.

    Shirt 1 is definitely STRIPED
    Shirt 2 is definitely PLAID
    Shirt 3 is definitely UGLY and gives me a headache. I mean CHECKERED.

    Serves you right for trying to learn to talk funny! LOL

  4. Being a native Dane I will have to agree with your Danish teacher on this one.
    It might be called plaid in Englsih but it's definitely not called plaid in Danish.
    You try to argument by posting the definition for plaid and checker in English, but that doesn't prove anything about the definiton of the word plaid in Danish language.
    What you seem to forget here is that a lot of words can't always be directly translated and many words e.g. plaid might have several meanings in English but that doesn't mean it has all the same meanings in Danish.
    The only use of the word plaid in Danish language I have ever heard is as a word for rug instead of the more common word Danish word "tæppe". And the word plaid is still used as a word for rug in Danish language even if the rug only has a single plain color. It decribes a ceartain type of rug in Danish rather than the pattern of it.

    I have never heard a Dane use the word plaid to describe a shirt patttern (unless they were speaking in English while using the word). The Danish word "ternet" is used to describe both the plaid and chekered shirt.
    "Ternet" is a very generic word to descibe all sorts of plaid and checker patterns. A more precise translation from English to Danish of plaid is "skotskternet".
    So next time tell your teacher that shirt number 2 is "skotskternet", he will probably agree on that.

    If you look up the word plaid in this online English to Danish and Danish to English dictionary

    Then you will get the translations below. Please note that the translation of the Danish word "plaid" in English is "rug" and "plaid", but only in the meaning of the Scottish plaid on their shoulders, not as a shirt pattern.

    On the other hand the only translation of the English word plaid to Danish here is "skotskternet". The English word "plaid" does not translate into the Danish word "plaid".


    substantiv <-en, -er, -erne>

    * (~tæppe) - She wrapped herself in the old travel rug to keep warm
    * (~tæppe) - She crocheted a beautiful rug for the baby
    * (skotskternet tæppe der er en del af den skotske højlænderdragt) - The men all wore plaids casted over their shoulders
    * (skotskternet tæppe der er en del af den skotske højlænderdragt)

    (Amerikansk) substantiv
    altid ental

    * adjektiv - Hun havde en skotskternet nederdel på

  5. Although I agree with your English terminology for these, I have to second P. The author of the Danish-English dictionary consulted, didn't do his/her homework. I do that all the time too. Look up words from Danish to English and the other way around, and am astounded by how few times they actually match up!

    In Danish, "en plaid" is the woolly thing you keep your legs warm with while watching American Idol. There is nothing called "en plaid skjorte".
    Anything checkered is "ternet". I know. I know.

    Something that REALLY gets my goat is what people think is a smoothie around here. People think that you can put ice cream in it, and it's still a smoothie. No - it's a milk shake. The whole point of a smoothie is to be healthy, ergo no ice cream. But unfortunately, it has stuck. We must find a new word for it then. This is our job.

  6. @sparrow - Being of german descent, I'll take the german vote any day!

    @tollerdog - Whew! I was afraid you were going to disagree!

    @p - Impressive argumentation, just wish you hadn't created a profile just to post a comment and then run away again! Reading your comment leads me to believe that now I need a new post about whether a tæppe is a rug or a blanket!

  7. Och aye! I'm Scottish and think that plaid is best suited to blankets and skirts!


  8. You are totally right.... stick to your guns! Do not let those Lærdansk people try to convince you otherwise!!!

  9. Oh my gosh...I am totally with you! You are right, he is wrong! Loved this blog!! :)

  10. Your teacher was correct.

    Plaid in danish is a noun. It can never function as an adjective. The correct adjective is "skotskternet".

    You arrive at a faulty conclusion most probably because you attempt to extrapolate from an english dictionary to danish. I don't know why you would do that, but it seems to me to be the most likely explanation.


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