Uff Da

Growing up with a Norwegian grandmother, I quickly became familiar with two expressions; uff da and ish da. The meanings were never explained, but by context I was able to gather that the former was an expression of disgust, while the latter was used for something icky.

I often heard ish da (or its Americanized abbreviated form, ish, and adjective, ishy) in context with things like dead fish, dog messes on the carpet, and dirty diapers (“Joey, don’t walk in here with those ishy boots!”).

On the other hand, uff da was when something offended the sensibilities of the adults doing the talking; the husband caught doing something unspeakable with a woman of loose moral fiber, the cat that crawled under the front porch to die (but was hauled out before it becameish da), the car that wouldn’t start at an inopportune moment. I saw it as the Norsk equivalent of “Good grief.”

It wasn’t until I was an adult and my cool uncle was visiting that I asked him and my mother the actual difference between the two words. Their explanation went something like this:

MY MOM: Ish da is something that’s… ishy. It’s slimy, yucky. And uff da is…

MY COOL UNCLE: Uff da is ten pounds of manure in a five pound bag.

Not bad for a kid. I suppose there’s something to learning a foreign language as a child after all (although I only learned one other word of Norwegian as a kid – the dreaded lutefisk). Nowadays, the explanation for the difference between the two is simple: “If you step over it, say uff da. If you step in it, say ish da.”

But today I say uff da with my cool uncle’s definition in mind because it really fits what happened with writing last night.

Just when I thought it was safe to plow through and finish my book, my writing time last night was spent working on… the Reconciled outline. I really haven’t tried to give much thought to these last two-and-a-half chapters of the book because I simply assumed that there was really nothing left for me to make note of. What wasn’t on paper was in my head, and only has to stay there until the end of this month.

But last night I found out that my brain is leaking. There were some things coming out that I had to get down because I was afraid I was going to lose them.

It reminds me of the old Far Side cartoon, the kid raising his hand in class and saying, “Can I leave now? My brain is full.”

Well, it’s nice to know my subconscious is hard at work on making these last couple of chapters something great. Too bad I can’t seem to keep up with it. Maybe I should have named this entry “Critical Mass” instead.

Uff da.


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