Scandinavian Humor

Today, my uncle from Iowa sent me an e-mail with a Norwegian joke in it.  If there is one thing that my Swedish-American uncles love, it is jokes about Norwegians.  Why?  I don’t know-proximity I guess.  Swedes make fun of Norwegians; Minnesotans make fun of Iowans or Wisconsinites.  The joke below pokes fun of the Norwegian accent, but the Swedish accent is nearly identical to the Norwegian accent. 


Below, is the joke.  Do not read if you have delicate sensibilities or do not like earthy humor.  Hope you enjoy it!


A Norwegian fella wants a job, but the foreman won’t hire him until he passes a little math test.  
Here is your first question, the foreman said.  ‘Without using numbers, represent the number 9.’  
‘Without numbers?’  The Norwegian says, ‘Dat’s easy.’ and proceeds to draw three trees.  

‘What’s this?’ the boss asks.
‘Vot! you got no brain?  Tree and tree and tree make nine,’ says the Norwegian.  
‘Fair enough,’ says the boss.  ‘Here’s your second question.  Use the same rules, but this time the number is 99.’  
The Norwegian stares into space for a while, then picks up the picture that he has just drawn and makes a smudge on each tree. ‘Dar ya go.’  

The boss scratches his head and says, ‘How on earth do you get that to represent 99?’  

‘Each of da trees is dirty now.  So, it’s dirty tree, and dirty tree, and dirty tree.  Dat is 99.’

The boss is getting worried that he’s going to actually have to hire this Norwegian, so he says, ‘All right, l ast question.
Same rules again, but represent the number 100.’  

The Norwegian fella stares into space some more, then he picks up the picture again and makes a little markat the base of each tree and says, ‘Dar ya go.  Von hundred.’  
The boss looks at the attempt.  ‘You must be nuts if you think that represents a hundred!’  

The Norwegian leans forward and points to the marks at the base of each tree and says, ‘A little dog come along and pooped by each tree.   So now you got dirty tree and a turd, dirty tree and a turd, and dirty tree and a turd, vich makes von hundred.’

‘So, ven do I start?


A joke that my grandmother wrote down in her booklet of favorite poems is about another Norwegian.  She used to listen to the radio and copy down her favorites in a small notebook.  This one is very common and people throughout the Midwest have recited this one for generations.  Some people even turned it into a song!


My name is Yon Yonson
I come from Visconsin
I work in the lumber mills dere;
Ven I valk down de street,

all de people I meet,
say, “Hello, vat’s your name?”

(repeat ad nauseam)


My dad and my uncles can do those jokes in wonderful fake Swedish accents.  They grew up around people whose first language was Swedish-my dad’s dad for example lived in an isolated Swedish-American farming community.  He did not learn English until he went to school and he and his brothers and sisters retained a slight Swedish accent throughout their lives.  Unfortunately, my siblings and I can’t replicate very authentic Swedish accents. 


Then, of course are the old Sven and Ole (and sometimes Lena too) jokes.  There are some jokes that say that Sven and Ole were old batchelor farmers that lived together.  That is another standby of Midwestern culture-the old bachelor farmer.  Unlike India where nearly everyone gets paired off (in Satya’s family there was one aunt that never married, but she was over 6 feet tall so perhaps that is why and another who never married because she was blind), there have always a substantial minority of Swedes and Norwegians that never married.  My grandmother had three bachelor uncles that lived together.  Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion website has a whole bunch of jokes submitted by listeners.

Finally, I will end with my grandfather’s Swedish tongue-twister.  He used to amaze all of us with this feat.  (The “sj” sound is unique to the Swedish language and one that trips up nearly all non-native speakers).  Sadly, no one else in my family can now recite it.I myself can’t recall the exact one, but it did involve that sound and seasick sailors.  Here is one version I found: sjuttiosju sjösjuka sjömän sköttes av sju sköna sjuksköterskor, which means 77 seasick sailors were nursed by seven fair nurses.

I’m not sure how much longer these jokes will last.  I think the only ones to tell my future hypothetical kids Sven and Ole jokes will be my dad and his brothers. 

 What are some of your favorite jokes?


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Solilo
    Jan 30, 2009 @ 05:12:32

    Ha..ha. India is no different. Making fun of another’s accent is a pastime but we do have the funniest accents.

    Yon Yonson
    Wisconsin 😀


  2. s-dee
    Feb 07, 2009 @ 11:30:18

    Haha, so funny! Actually we Norwegians always do jokes about sweedish people as well:P Its a mutual thing I guess, trying to make the other country sound stupid:P

    I think you’re right!


  3. La Vida Loca
    Feb 11, 2009 @ 16:11:18

    I have a joke to share as well..heard it back in the day I used to live in KS
    Q: why is it so windy in KS?
    A: Coz Nebraska blows and Oklahoma suck 😀

    ha, ha.

    Apologies to all those from Nebraska and Oklahoma 🙂


    Mar 29, 2010 @ 16:57:47

    Here is a Ole and Lena joke.

    Ole and Lena wanted children but no matter how hard they tried Lena would’nt get pregnant.
    One day Ole said to Lena “Vy don”t you go the doctor and see if dere is somtin wrong vit you.”
    So Lena went town to see the doctor.After a thorough examination the doctor said to Lena”I am sorry to say you have a fissure in your birth canal and if you would ever have a child it would be a miracle.” That afternoon Ole came in the house to see Lena crying and very upset.He asked Lena” Vell vot did the doctor say?” Lena replied “Oh Ole he said I have a fish in my canal and if I ever had a baby it vold be a mackerel!”


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