USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘optimism’
general
Proverbs

Norwegian Proverb

“So, literally translated, what we say is, ‘It’s not only only, but but.’ It’s literally a sentence that means, ‘You’ll be fine.’ Which, it means that, okay so what you are up to is not easy, but it only is what is. So you shouldn’t care too much.”

 

This Norwegian phrase sounds much like our own, “It is what it is.” Their term, however, seems to go a little further by saying that, while you can’t change what’s happened, it’s going to be fine. The term “It is what it is” has more of a defeatist connotation to it. Like nothing good is coming out of it. But this Norwegian version puts a positive outlook. Like, “Yeah, this suck now and you can’t do anything about it, but you’ll still come out all right.”

The source recalls hearing this from his friends in high school. In fact, the example he gave me of when he’d use it had to do with school. Someone got a D on a test once, and he remembered telling them this phrase in response. I know when I hear, “It is what it is,” it makes me angry because it’s like the person is telling me there’s no hope and there’s nothing I can do. But I feel like this phrase is far more reassuring. It sounds like more of a kind remark.

I wonder if that says something about Norwegian culture. Perhaps are they more optimistic as a society than we are? I’d probably have to hear more of their proverbs and sayings to really know, but it already sounds like they’re more hopeful than Americans.

Proverbs

Behind the Clouds the Sky Will Always be Blue

My informant is a friend and sophomore student at USC from Norway. She lived for the majority of her life in Norway before moving and living in Thailand, Dubai, and Namibia until she attended college. Having lived for over a decade in Norway, Norwegian is her primary language.

 

“Bak skyene er himmelen alltid blå…this one translates to um… ‘behind the clouds, the sky will always be blue’ meaning that there’s always something positive in everything depending on how you look at it.”

 

This proverb immediately reminded me of the American saying “every cloud has a silver lining”. I find it very interesting that many cultures share a saying that embodies the belief that you always have to be able to see the good in a bad situation. My informant had a relatively difficult upbringing as a child in Norway. As an infant her parents had to keep her in a dresser drawer instead of a crib because they could not afford one. The extended period of hardship that she endured while a child and the position that she is in now (a successful student at USC) demonstrates a cultural belief in staying positive and continuing to look on the bright side even when things are looking bad.

[geolocation]