Norwegian Unix

I've been using Unix-based operating systems since about 1990; since then I've also learned Norwegian – I now live in Norway. Consequently, I notice the Norwegian words that happen to coincide with Unix command names, such as:


Norwegian: hold or grip; also, knack as in to have the knack of some skill.

Unix: get regular expression, identifies the lines from its input that match a pattern specified on its command lines; its output consists either of exactly these lines of input or exactly all the others. So, indeed, it is used to get hold of a selection of its input; and having the knack of using it is pretty handy.


Norwegian: custom.

Unix: stream editor, its command-line specifies some transformation to be applied to each line of its input, to obtain its output. It is the customary tool for performing simple transformations to text.


Norwegian: the present form of the verb å ta, to take.

Unix: originally, tape archive, but now commonly used (in combination with compression) to create a single compact file that packages a collection of files, typically a whole directory and everything in its sub-directories (users of operating systems based on DOS will know zip, which does something roughly similar, albeit less well), for ease of transfer over networks. Thus, tar is indeed the default way to take a bunch of files from one place to another.

There's also bash, the Bourne-again shell, which isn't actually a Norwegian word, but is pronounced the same as bæsj, which is a cuss-word, roughly shit. If I use a machine where the login shell is the raw Bourne shell (which lacks simple history navigation; it's fine for scripts but rather weak for interactive use) I'll likely be cussing gently under my breath after a minute or five, when I run up against its limitations; at that point I'll often type bash to solve the problem.


(ls -1 /bin; ls -1 /usr/bin) | grep -v '^\[' | while read word; do \
	grep "^$word\$" bokmaal nynorsk 2>/dev/null; done

in /usr/share/dict/ got me a fair few matches more, many of which didn't show up in my dictionary, some of which were just the same as English. I've put the ones that are at least vaguely apt above. Here are examples of the rest, along with some of those that are the same word as English, but with a different meaning:


Norwegian: imperative of the verb å lesse, to load.

Unix: less is more (a reference to Orwell's 1984), see below.


Norwegian: to amuse, divert or entertain.

A pager; that is, it displays its input one page at a time, moving on to the next when prompted to do so by the user; it indicates that there's more to display by ending the display with a line saying --more-- and indicating what percentage of the file it's already shown you; hence its name.


Norwegian: the verb to threaten.

Unix: a command that always succeeds, doing nothing. Used in assorted situations where a test is required and we want the test to always succeed, for example the construct while true; do …; done (which loops forever, unless includes a break statement).


Norwegian: an ishtmus, a narrow neck of land.

Unix: an alias for lid -R edit (see lid below); used to edit each file that uses some given token.


Norwegian: pious, gentle, meek.

Unix: print names of those who have sent e-mail.


Norwegian: if only or I wish.

Unix: alias for lid -R grep (see lid below), lists all lines containing the requested tokens.


Norwegian: load, burden, cargo, vice (in the sense opposite to virtue); also the imperative of a verb meaning to blame or to load.

Unix: lists who's logged in and out recently. That might give a clue to who to blame for something, or give hints as to why the system's load is so high.


Norwegian: imperative of å lide, to suffer.

Unix: part of a suite of programs that keep track of which files use which tokens (typically words, a.k.a. identifiers), to make it easier to find all uses of a given token; lists uses of tokens or can perform diverse actions on all such uses.


Norwegian: the third person indefinite pronoun (nominally one in English, usually you in common usage).

Unix: the command one uses to consult the manual; to find out how to use it, type man man and read the results.


Norwegian: fox or reef (nautical: both the ridge of rock at or near the surface of the water and a fold in a sail); also slang for reefer, spliff or joint.

Unix: for each line of input, output that line reversed.


Norwegian: a howl (c.f. ululate).

Unix: underline. Where the input uses some plain text indications for underlining (e.g. putting an underscore just before and after the text to be underlined), it transforms this into whatever the display uses to actually underline text. Underlining is a bit like SHOUTING but not quite howling.


Norwegian: we.

Unix: the visual editor. Back when line editing was state of the art (the editor program lets you interactively select a line of the file; it even displays the line; then you tell it what to change in that line; then you tell it what line you want to modify next), vi packaged ed (on which sed is based) to use a full-screen display of the file, that you could scroll through, traverse and generally interact with to edit the file. May seem a bit archaic to younger generations, but has the virtue of always being there.

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