Access Update: "Helt Texas"

How do people in Texas react to the Norwegian expression "helt Texas"? 

In Access to International English we talk about how English has become the international language it is today and also about its influence around the world. But as the article below shows, sometimes other countries “borrow” something from the English language and add it to their own language in a way that is essentially their own. What kind of influence is this? The article below is from the Daily Post, a Texas publication.


Y’all, Norwegians Use the Word “Texas” As Slang to Mean “Crazy”

If you’re Norwegian or happen to spend a lot of time around Norwegians, then this fact that absolutely blew our minds might not be news to you - but apparently the word “Texas” is slang for “crazy” or “wild,” as in, “the end of the [whatever sport they play in Norway] game was totally Texas!”

We saw a screen capture from Tumblr float around social media this weekend and were initially skeptical. But, lo and behold, the evidence has convinced us that this is really an accepted part of Norwegian slang.

  • Here is an article from Aviso Nordland from March 2014 about reckless international truck drivers traveling through the northern part of the country. Norwegian police chief Knut Danielsen, when describing the situation, tells the paper that “it is absolutely texas.”
  • Here’s one from a 2012 edition of Verdens Gang, a Norwegian tabloid, in which Blackburn Rovers soccer manager Henning Berg- a Norwegian former star who played for the British team - describes the atmosphere at a match between the Rovers and the rival Burnley Clarets as “totally texas.”
  • And here’s a fisherman telling the local news about the rare swordfish he caught in Northern Norway: “I heard a loud noise from the bay, but I did not know where it came from right away. Thirty seconds to a minute later it jumped out in the fjord. I got to see some of it before I took up the camera,” he says and continues: “It was totally texas!”

Usually, when the word “texas” - as an adjective, most often without capitalization - appears in Norwegian, the context involves the phrase, “det var helt texas,” which translates to, roughly, “it was totally/absolutely/completely bonkers.” You wouldn’t call a person “totally texas” - it usually describes a chaotic atmosphere.

A Norwegian Tumblr user explained some of the etymology of the phrase in a post from last May:

The expression itself has to do with associations. It’s something that brings to mind chaotic, crazy conditions, like the “wild west,” and at least back when the expression was coined, the “wild west” held very strong Texas associations. Hell, even when I was a kid in the 80s, I thought that all American cowboys came from Texas, and that’s just how it was. Texas = land of the cowboys. And rodeos. And the wild west. A Western movie? Probably from Texas.

The expression dates back several decades, and speaks to how the mythos of Texas has been interpreted in one Scandinavian country: “Texas” = “cowboys” = “Wild West” = “an unpredictable, exciting, sometimes scary atmosphere,” and thus can be used to describe a party that had people jumping off the roof into a swimming pool, a soccer game where fans were getting tense, or even a troubling traffic situation, which - while the etymology may be different - is fair enough for anyone who’s been in any Texas city during rush hour.

All of which is to say that when considering what “Texas” means to the world, it’s fascinating to realize just how far and wide our fabled culture spreads - or as they might say in Norway, det er helt texas as heck.

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  1. Can we really call this American influence when it seems Norwegians have created the term's meaning here? Discuss.
  2. What attitude does the writer of the article seem to have to this use of the adjective “texas”?
  3. Discuss in pairs and make a list of other English words that have made their way into Norwegian, for example “sorry”. What words do you use? Compare lists in class.
  4. Some people claim that their use of English words in Norwegian is a social reflex, i. e. it seems to come naturally. Discuss whether this “social reflex” is a sign of English slowly but surely making its way into the Norwegian language and what you think will happen to the Norwegian language.
  5. Norwegian media and arts are saturated with English language influence, for example, advertisements on TV in Norway often have some English, and sometimes they are just in English with no translation. According to some researchers, this could be a sign of the world becoming truly global. When we share similar cultural references, and international English is understood around the world, the world will perhaps become more harmonious and peaceful. Discuss this in small groups and then share your conclusions with the class.


Here are a few comments from the comments field below the article. Brackets indicate our adding of information.

Write a text in which you respond to some of these comments and what they say about the contributors, and state your opinion on the value of internet comment fields.


Why would I want to move there [presumably to Norway]? Born and raised Texan and proud of it...I just don't like some of those outsiders who moved here from Canada and somewhere up East and try to take over.


They [Norwegians when they use the word [ “texas”] are probably just reacting to some of the less than intelligent things some of our Texas politicians say. It is probably because they do not know that neither Ted Cruz nor Dan Patrick is a "REAL" Texan. 


Take your political bias with you when you move to Kommiefornia.


Ted Cruz is welcome in my state of Texas anytime. Thank you Mr Cruz for standing on Principal's unlike the Lying azz obama.


Using the word Texas in this way makes it seem like we [Texans] are living in the least developed and sophisticated place in the world.


We Americans are often accused of being ignorant of other cultures, but really, do you Norwegians really believe all cowboys were Texans? Are you using Hollywood as a textbook?


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