Robinson Crusoe på norsk: week one

Well, I’ve finished, just about, the first chapter of this translation of Robinson Crusoe and so far I’ve recorded around 60 phrases or words, the meanings of which I was unsure of. This is quite a lot but it is at least in part because of the fact that a lot of the vocabulary revolves around ships and sailing.

To briefly synopsise the first chapter, we have Robinson at home being told by his father that he doesn’t want to be abandoned by his son, Robinson breaking of the promise to go to Hull, and joining a friend of his on his friend’s father ship. They encounter a storm which they weather, and are then hit by a second storm whereupon they are rescued brought back to shore, Robinson doesn’t want to return to his parents, and so goes off making money and learning how to be a seafarer with the captain of another ship. With this same captain he heads for the Canaries before being way-laid by Pirates and ends up a slave in Morocco

Of course central to the whole book is the ship and the loss of several. So as words go, it comes up very frequently in this opening chapter. But the word used here for ship is not the one I know for ship in Norwegian.  Although skip is the standard term for a ship in Norwegian, this book uses skute or skuta. So why the difference?

Is it båd, is it a skip? No, it’s a skute!

Cappelen’s Store Engelsk Ordbook, notes skip as the first entry, but says that to “desert a sinking ship” is forlate en synkende skute. This doesn’t offer much in the way of help. Happily, the blå ordbok from 2012 notes that skute is a “ship (especially in reference to windjammers), vessel or a craft.” While Robinson Crusoe takes place in the 17th century, long before windjammers existed, evidently given that the ship which he is aboard is a big sailing vessel – what might be know familiar to people as a tall ship – the term is more appropriate maybe than the more standard skip. Certainly it is no mere båd.

As a result of this heavily nautical opening chapter I also now know that “så de måtte reve seilene” means they “had to reef the sails”,”mannskapet” is crew, “kahytt” is cabin, a landgrubber is a “landekrabb”, and “every man had to pump [water]” is “Alle mann måtte til pumpene”. I also know that the word for pirate is “sjørøver” which translates literally as “sea robber”. A pirate ship is “sjørøverskuta”. All dead handy for when I begin my sailing career.



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