Changing vulgarity: hengerumpe

Meanings of words vary with time, gender

M. Michael Brady
Asker, Norway


Photo: A-Magasinet / Facebook
Facebook photo with abusive annotation used as an example of the challenges women athletes face.

On June 7, A-Magasinet, the weekly magazine supplement to Aftenposten, had a cover feature on women’s football or “soccer” as it’s called in the United States (Further reading). In it, as an example of how women’s sports often are denigrated, there was a copy of a Facebook photo of a team huddle with an abusive annotation Hengerumpe, which might least offensively translate to “Saggy butt.”

Top player Camilla Linberg of the Lyn club team (Oslo) was provoked. A cyberspace battle ensued. As might be expected in sports-aware Norway, the weight of opinion sided with her. The physiques of athletes are unlike those of anorectic fashion models. Athletes are as trim as they must be to compete well. Time will tell whether the word hengerumpe will persist or change, or apply equally or unequally to women and men.

As applied to men, hengerumpe initially translated to “satchel ass,” an unflattering physical description of a man whose bottom was wider than his shoulders. With time, satchel ass acquired connotations, such as deceit; a satchel ass was a man who could not be trusted. Then came sloth, the reluctance to work, which brought in the synonym lard ass. Where the meaning of the word is headed is anyone’s guess.

That said, there’s linguistic precedent that suggests how hengerumpe might change. As applied to people, the word gay is an example of how meaning varies with time and gender. According to the Complete Oxford English Dictionary, the word gay originally meant a person who was light-hearted, exuberantly cheerful, sportive, and merry. By the early 17th century, it implied an addiction to social pleasures and dissipations or immoral lifestyle, of reveling and self-indulgence for a man or living by prostitution for a woman. Its meaning of “homosexual” first appeared in the mid 1930s in American slang, first as an adjective and then in the 1970s as a noun.

Further reading:

• “For 110.000 norske fotballjenter er motstanden utenfor banen fremdeles den tøffeste” (For 110,000 Norwegian soccer girls, the toughest opposition still is off the field), A-Magasinet, June 7, 2019:

• “Playing like a girl: Despite women’s soccer success, girls struggle,” The Norwegian American, July 26, 2019:

M. Michael Brady was educated as a scientist and, with time, turned to writing and translating.

This article originally appeared in the August 9, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Avatar photo

M. Michael Brady

M. Michael Brady was born, raised, and educated as a scientist in the United States. After relocating to the Oslo area, he turned to writing and translating. In Norway, he is now classified as a bilingual dual national.