A little Danish word that even Danes find hard to define has become so trendy in the English-speaking world that it has been granted the ultimate accolade of being absorbed into the language.
It’s now official: the word ‘hygge’ has been adopted into the Oxford Dictionary.
Defined as a ‘mass noun’, hygge is said to be “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).”
Examples of its use are given as: “Why not follow the Danish example and bring more hygge into your daily life?” and “Count on candlelight – almost a requirement for that special hygge experience.”
Get the thick socks and candles out
According to the BBC News Magazine, Morley College in central London is even teaching students how to achieve hygge as part of its Danish language course.
It may come as a surprise to most of us, but apparently “hygge isn’t just a middle-class thing. Absolutely everyone’s at it, from my dustbin man to the mayor,” explained Helen Russell, the author of ‘The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country’.
“Hygge is so crucial to living Danishly that the other day on the motorway I saw a camper van driving along with lit candles in the windows.”
More than a little over the top
At least nine books have been published on the subject. However, Charlotte Higgins writing in the Guardian sounds a cautionary note.
“Just as ‘chic’ is the thing that everyone knows about the French, the word hygge must now be affixed, almost by law, to any media story about Denmark or, indeed, anything remotely Scandinavian, whether the subject is clothes, furniture, cookery, travel or working hours,” she said.
“The headlines are mostly absurd: ‘Get Hygge With It!’ ‘Hungry For Hygge!’ ‘Ten Reasons to Hygge … It Will Make You Happier’, ‘Fitter and Slimmer! Give Your Home a Hygge!’ There is even a New Statesman article entitled ‘The Hygge of Oasis: Why I Find This Band Strangely Comforting’.”
It would appear that in the UK it is already bordering on being uhyggelige!