2016 was the year of many things. Take a look at the Oxford Dictionary’s “Word of the Year
” list, and you find terms and expressions which were relatively unknown just a year before.
Brexiteer, Alt-right, Chatbot just a few.
However, one of these “Words of the Year” has been known to Danes and Scandiphiles for generations.
But 2016 was definitely the year that “Hygge” went mainstream around the world.
So what is “hygge”?
Well, at its essence, hygge is a feeling. It’s not something that is easily explained in words. However, many have tried to do so – and some have got very close!
The best explanation I’ve read comes from Bronte Aurell in her fabulous “Hygge & Fika” lifestyle/cookbook which reads: “Hygge.. means the sublime state of inner warmth or satisfaction you feel when you are spending time with loved ones, and nothing else matters.”
But of course, you can hygge on your own, so that still misses the mark by a whisker.
How to pronounce Hygge?“Hooga? Hhyooguh? Heurgh?” asks Meik Wiking in her charming “Little Book of Hygge” when it comes to pronouncing the word. And whilst she notes that it’s not really important how you say it, the general suggestion is that it’s more “who-guh” than “hoo-gar”.
This fun YouTube clip from Lantmännen Unibake gets you on the right track.
Where does Hygge originate?
Don’t mention this to a Dane, a folk who are as passionate about owning the phrase as they are about their pastries (which incidentally originated in Austria), but Hygge is actually an adaptation of the old Norse word Hyggia
– the meaning of which is basically the same.
So it’s origins are of a shared Scandinavian heritage.
Translating Hygge into english is clunky. The closest we get is “cosy”, but that’s no where near the proper translation. The Dutch perhaps do it better – gezellig – although as Meik notes “gezelligheid is a bit more social”. The Norwegians have their phrase – koselig; and the Germans have gemütlichkeit, all of which circle around the same idea.
But as Winnie-the-Pooh says when asked by Piglet to spell “love” – “you don’t spell it, you feel it”.Ditto hygge.