When immigrants came to the U.S. from various lands, they strove to become thoroughly American. It became common practice to speak only English in the presence of the children. However, one expression Norwegian immigrants found it impossible to shed was "uff da!" The term sounds just like what it seeks to convey: disgruntlement.

Professor Odd Lovoll of St. Olaf College (in Minnesota) was quoted in the Norwegian press as bemoaning the lack of conversancy of most Norwegian Americans with the Norwegian language -- with the Norwegian vocabulary of most limited to "uff da." What this reflects is that "uff da" is probably the Norwegian expression best known to Norwegian Americans.

It is a perfectly polite expression which may be used in place of various vulgarisms employed to evince displeasure. One wag has observed, "In Norway, Charlie Brown says, 'uff da!' instead of 'Good grief!.' "

It is an analogue of such words in other languages as "oy vey" or "carumba."

"Da" means "then." Literally, "ja da" means "yes, then," "nei da" means "no, then," and "uff da" means, well, "uff, then."

Dag Petter Eide of Ålesund suggests we might be "a bit too engaged by the little quite meaningless phrase." It's understandable that in Norway, little significance would be ascribed to that or any other commonly uttered expression. But in the U.S.A., those of us of Norwegian extraction are united by our memories of our progenitors grumbling, "Uff da!" Eide notes that "søren" is a term that might be invoked on any occasion when "uff da" seems appropriate. But "uff da" has the sound that perfectly matches the emotion, and is the phrase that comes readily to our minds if not to our lips.

"Uff da!" is no longer an expression cognizable only by Norwegians and those of Norwegian extraction. Evidence of that is "Uff Da" page in English posted by a Japanese neurologist, "Dr. Y" (Shunji Yasaki). The website has no relation to Norway except for its inspiration: while in Minnesota, Dr. Yasaki befriended some Norwegian Americans and encountered the expression "uff da."

The opening of the joke page reads: 

  • Uff Da is --- discovering that your male dog is pregnant!
  • Uff Da is --- forgetting your mother-in-law's first name.
  • Uff Da is --- dropping your only egg on the floor!
  • Uff Da is --- eating hot soup when you've got a runny nose!


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