Bud Kennedy

In Norway, if it’s loud or crazy, it’s ‘texas’

Clifton Norwegian descendants Betty Jenson Tindall, Mary Ann Rystad Stokely, Ann Olsen Wiland and the late Rosalie Aars in 2002.
Clifton Norwegian descendants Betty Jenson Tindall, Mary Ann Rystad Stokely, Ann Olsen Wiland and the late Rosalie Aars in 2002. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

Somehow, I’m not sure which is more worrisome:

▪ That Norwegians since the 1950s have described something that’s crazy-wild-out-of-control with one efficient word: texas,

▪ Or that Texans are so oblivious to the rest of the world that we are just now finding out.

For some Texans, the most shocking news of the week came from Texas Monthly magazine headlined, “Y’all, Norwegians Use The Word ‘Texas’ As Slang To Mean ‘Crazy.’ 

Quoting a dramatic Norwegian online report about a fisherman named Erik Leine Wangen, making headlines for catching a giant swordfish in a local fjord, TM cited Wangen’s quote in the headline: Det var helt texas! (“It was totally Texas!”)

“When the word texas — as an adjective, most often without capitalization — appears in Norwegian,” the magazine’s Dan Solomon concluded, that “translates to, roughly, ‘it was totally/absolutely/completely bonkers.’ 

In the historic Norwegian immigrant towns of Clifton, Cranfills Gap and Norse, southwest of Fort Worth, the descendants of 19th-century settlers are busy getting ready for the big Smörgåsbord next month in Norse, and then the Norwegian Country Christmas Festival in Clifton and the Norwegian Lutefisk Dinner in Cranfills Gap.

Bosque County is just like a little Norway. Just hotter. And there’s no fjords.

Betty Tindall of the Norwegian Society of Texas referred me to Inger and Per Arne Sund, who moved from Brønnøysund, Norway, to Cranfills Gap.

“I’ve heard texas my whole life — it’s actually pretty old,” said Per Arne Sund, 55, a Texas resident half the year.

“If you’re at a party and it gets a little too wild, people say it’s ‘getting a little texas.’ 

As you might expect, Texas’ bad Scandinavian reputation comes from TV.

But not from Dallas or Walker, Texas Ranger.

From Rawhide and Gunsmoke.

“We all grew up in the ’60s watching TV Westerns,” Sund said.

“We were very much enamored with Texas and the American West. … Now, it’s just part of the language. We say it without thinking about it.”

The Norwegian news site NRK in turn has taken note of Texas Monthly’s amazement, turning to a local scholar who said texas describes “wild conditions, or commotion and noise.”

All I can say is, that must have been one heck of a swordfish.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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