A Roll in the Universe

Website of Keera Ann Fox, an American in Bergen, Norway

Gate or gate?

“Gate” is one of those words that linguists call “false friends”. The word looks alike in two different languages but does not have the same meaning. So a movable barrier in a fence in English is a street in Norwegian (pronounced as GAH-teh).

I’m bilingual, equally comfortable with my mother tongue English, and with Norwegian. I learned Norewgian at age 8 so I speak it without an accent. Being bilingual does not mean translating stuff on the fly. Both languages exist with their respective glossaries, grammar, idioms and sentence structure.

On occasion my brain will glitch and try to speak Norwegian using English sentence structures, which leads to some awkward phrasing and some fumbling around as I try to correct myself. The reverse only happens if I’m trying to translate Norwegian into English on the fly. Somewhat more frequently, my brain will toss in an English word while I’m speaking Norwegian or vice-versa.

I have yet to refer to a street as a gate, or a gate as a port, perhaps because these are basic and common words. (A gate is called “port” in Norwegian, like in portal.)

Some words are may not be interchangeable now but could have been at one time. A gate is a hole or gap for passage. The word comes from the proto-German “gatan” and the narrow passageway has evolved into the thing allowing you to go through a fence  or wall in English-speaking countries, or the thing that allows you to go through a city in Scandinavia and Germany.

The Daily Prompt: Gate


  1. That would explain how certain streets in England got names like “Edgegate.” (The Norse did putter around northern England for a while. Just imagine if certain battles had gone differently and England and Scotland became Western Norway.) Anyhow, as I said on CIDU, I am going to be passing through there near the end of August, to take a fjords cruise and then return via the Flåm Railway. We’ll be staying at the Augustin on the 29th and 31st of, appropriately enough, August. It’d be great to meet a fellow CIDUer, perhaps for dinner one of those two evenings, or perhaps for lunch on the 1st.

    • Hi, Ed! As I recall, some marriages between royals also decided the future map of Norway. I’d love to meet a fellow CIDUer! I’ve sent you an email.

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