Norwegian: et vanskelig/anstrengt forhold til religion/alkohol

serbianfan

Senior Member
British English
I thought this was a typical Norwegian/Scandinavian turn of phrase, but I was surprised to find lots of hits for the equivalent in English (a difficult/strained relationship with... things, not people). Personally, I've quite often heard and used it in Norway in everyday conversation, but I've never said the equivalent in English - I think I'd say something like "he has a bit of a problem with alcohol" instead. Sometimes it's a bit difficult to know what is meant by it - what exactly does "han har et anstrengt forhold til mat" mean?
 
  • winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    To me "he has a bit of a problem with alcohol/food" is a euphemism for "I think he drinks/eats too much". But doesn't "anstrengt forhold til mat" rather imply fad dieting, bulemia, or risk of anorexia?

    In English, people can have an "attitude to food" or a "relationship with food" that is "healthy/good" or "unhealthy/bad". I think you can also have a "difficult relationship with food" and a "relaxed attitude to food", but not a "tense/strained attitude". I think the "bad/unhealthy/difficult" end of the spectrum is the equivalent of "anstrengt" in this context. The phrases might have been relatively recently introduced into the language, but they don't particulary strike me as being new, and I have been using English for several decades now!
     

    serbianfan

    Senior Member
    British English
    But doesn't "anstrengt forhold til mat" rather imply fad dieting, bulemia, or risk of anorexia?
    Yes, I think it could, but it could also apply to a teenager who seems to survive on crisps and Coke, and "doesn't like" fish, vegetables, fruit, etc. Or maybe someone who eats too much. It sounds kind of clever to use the phrase "vanskelig/anstrengt forhold til" but it's not really a very useful phase in cases where the meaning isn't clear. Similarly what does "han har et anstrengt forhold til jenter" mean? He looks upon girls as sex objects, he's too shy with girls, he can never find a girl friend because he's too choosy or what?

    With alcohol, it's more straightforward: the person drinks too much. He could be trying to stop, but gets tempted again if he's with people who are drinking moderately.
    The phrases might have been relatively recently introduced into the language, but they don't particulary strike me as being new, and I have been using English for several decades now!
    No, they may not be new - in fact, Norwegian might have borrowed them from English, and then started using them more than the English do.
     

    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Yes, I think it could, but it could also apply to a teenager who seems to survive on crisps and Coke, and "doesn't like" fish, vegetables, fruit, etc. Or maybe someone who eats too much. It sounds kind of clever to use the phrase "vanskelig/anstrengt forhold til" but it's not really a very useful phase in cases where the meaning isn't clear. Similarly what does "han har et anstrengt forhold til jenter" mean? He looks upon girls as sex objects, he's too shy with girls, he can never find a girl friend because he's too choosy or what?

    With alcohol, it's more straightforward: the person drinks too much. He could be trying to stop, but gets tempted again if he's with people who are drinking moderately.
    I think someone who is a fussy eater, or who drinks or eats too much does not necessarily have a "difficult relationship" with food/drink. I know fussy eaters, and people that eat or drink too much, who are very relaxed about the situation. On the other hand, some may be axious and conflicted. I think it is only the latter that have the "difficult relationship". But that is English, and just my impression.

    Are you saying the Norwegian "anstrengt forhold" can be applied according to more objective criteria that do not depend on the attitude of the person concerned?
     

    serbianfan

    Senior Member
    British English
    Are you saying the Norwegian "anstrengt forhold" can be applied according to more objective criteria that do not depend on the attitude of the person concerned?
    I don't know really. I hope some Norwegians will tell us what they think of the expression.
     

    raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    or eats too much does not necessarily have a "difficult relationship" with food/drink. I know fussy eaters, and people that eat or drink too much, who are very relaxed about the situation. On the other hand, some may be axious and conflicted. I think it is only the latter that have the "difficult relationship".
    I understand "anstrengt forhold" about the same way as winenous understands "difficult relationship". To me, "anstrengt forhold" with things implies that the person is a bit neurotic.
     
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