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The Danish Shibboleth of "rødgrød med fløde"

Danes are fond of having foreigners try to say rød-grød med fløde, which means red pudding with cream. It is somewhat of a shibboleth, a phrase which native speakers can say easily and foreigners cannot say at all. After World War II when American soldiers found their way to Copenhager and started dating Danish girls there was a conspiracy among the Danes to tell any American who asked how to say I love you in Danish that it was rød-grød med fløde.

The major source of the difficulty is that the Danish r is entirely different from the English r. The Danish r is a gutteral that is articulated in the back of the mouth whereas the English r is artuculated in the front of the mouth. It helps to consider the Danish r as hr. The sound of the Danish letter ø is like that of a u with the lips pushed forward. The d at the end of Danish syllables is pronounced like the th in other. The e at the end of the word fløde is pronounced, as an unstressed uh.

So roughly the proper pronunciation of rødgrød med fløde would be as if it were spelled hrooth ghrooth mith floothuh, noting that the th is the sound in other and not the sound in Ruth.

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