Norwegian words in translation: klister

Photo Courtesy of Digitalt Museum Østbye Mixolin Klister (ca. 1965).

Photo Courtesy of Digitalt Museum
Østbye Mixolin Klister (ca. 1965).

M. Michael Brady
Asker, Norway

In English, klister is a loanword from Norwegian that first appeared in 1936, in English writer Brian Lunn’s “Complete Book of Skiing,” a translation from the original German edition of 1935 by Fredrik Hallberg and H. Mückenbrünn. In turn, the word klister in Norwegian has German roots, as it’s derived from the Medieval German word Klïster meaning “spread.”

In modern Norwegian, the first dictionary definition of klister translates to the English word “paste,” the traditional mixture of flour and water. Yet paste of that sort no longer is made or sold. The water-soluble mucilage used by children now is called skolelim (literally “school glue”). Even so, the corresponding verb klistre (“to paste” or “to stick together”) survives, so the noun klister still is in use.

Norwegian cross-country ski racer Peter Østbye (1887-1979) must have had that sort of stickiness in mind in 1913 when he mixed paraffin, stearine, linseed oil, tar, wax, rosin, and turpentine to make the first successful grip wax that worked on wet snows. He called it klister, a name that literally has stuck in Norwegian as well as in English.

This article originally appeared in the April 3, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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