A Norwegian dictionary for all users

Photo courtesy of Clue CLUE 10’s on-screen interface is simple to use.

Photo courtesy of Clue
CLUE 10’s on-screen interface is simple to use.

M. Michael Brady
Asker, Norway

As a correspondent for this newspaper who lives in Norway and earns a living mostly by translating, I’m often asked to recommend a Norwegian-English bilingual dictionary. I have most of the classic paper ones, including a prized 25-year-old, much-used copy of Norsk Engelsk Ordbok by Einar Haugen (1906-1994), the famed Norwegian-American linguist now commemorated by an annual lecture series at the Center for Multilingualism in Society Across the Life­span at the University of Oslo.

But I usually recommend online dictionaries, as they’re readily available and easy to use. I’ve tried most of the Norwegian-English ones that have come along. My favorite by far is Clue, developed by a Norwegian information technology company with its headquarters in Oslo and first launched in 1987. From the start, its approach has been user-friendly. One of its early editors, Karin Lillehei, a Norwegian American from Seattle with a PhD in linguistics, saw that need. From her work with FishBase, the global database of fish species, she realized that Clue should not be just another lexicographic reference but rather a pragmatic source of words for people who use them.

That viewpoint persists. The Clue staff of eight develop, edit, market, and sell Clue dictionaries. But they aren’t in-house products in the conventional sense. Their continually updated content is based on input from an extensive network of translators in many countries. It has become Norway’s most-used dictionary. Moreover, the name Clue is brilliant. Aside from the meaning of a clue being something that guides the solution of a problem, antithetic British English usage implies utility. The phrase to “not have a clue” means to know nothing about a matter. The corresponding adjective is “clueless.”

The current version 10 of Clue is available in 11 languages that together comprise more than seven million words. There are four bilingual dictionaries between Norwegian and English, French, German, and Spanish. Technical dictionaries cover more than 200 fields. It’s available as an offline product for Windows or Mac and as an online product for phones, tablets, and web browsers. As shown here, the on-screen interface is simple and easy to use, yet offers several options.

Clue is marketed online on the website (in English) at www.clue.no. At this writing, on-site ordering is supported only for customers within Scandinavia. Customers elsewhere may order by sending an email query to info@clue.no with the customary details of name, email address, invoicing address, and which particular dictionary is ordered.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 4, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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