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Ford column: Uffda! We love Ole and Lena

During a marriage seminar for husbands at the Lutheran church last week, the pastor asked Ole, who was approaching his 50th anniversary, how he had managed to stay married all these years.
“Vell,” Ole told the assembled husbands, “I’ve tried to treat her nice, spend da money on her, but best of all I took her to Norvay for da 20th anniversary!”The pastor responded, “Ole, you are an inspiration! Please tell us what you plan to do for your 50th anniversary.”
“Vell,” Ole proudly replied, “I’m a-gonna go get her.”
I love Ole and Lena jokes, self-deprecating stories told by Scandinavian-Americans that feature a Norwegian couple and a cast of well-meaning but dumb characters.
While you might feel sorry for Lena, left behind in Norway, don’t. She probably enjoyed her 30 years away from Ole and his misadventures.
Ole was so excited to get a new cellular phone. He left town and called Lena when he entered the freeway.
“Lena put supper on, I’m on my way home.”
Lena says, “Be careful Ole. I hear some nut is driving the wrong way on the freeway.”
“It’s worse than that, Lena! Where I’m at, there are a hundred cars going the wrong way!”
Ole and Lena jokes often feature signatures from Norwegian culture, like lutefisk, a stinky traditional dish made with fish and lye, or the expression “uffda.”
Uffda has a variety of meanings, including “oops” and “ouch,” especially if it’s said with empathy.
People still say “uffda” if they are overwhelmed, dismayed, surprised or even relieved. It’s a good, all-purpose saying, not unlike “bless her heart” in the South and “oy” in Yiddish.
Ole and Sven went on an expensive fishing trip and returned with only one fish.
“The way I figger it, dat fish cost us $400,” said Sven.
“Uffda,” replied Ole. “At dat price, it’s a good ting we didn’t catch any more.”
The best Ole and Lena joke-tellers use a heavy Scandinavian accent.
We hosted a South Dakota party here several years ago ó the Little Party on the Prairie. Guests came dressed as farmers, scarecrows, hunters, a pheasant, even an ear of corn.
My sister and I, dressed in long skirts and aprons as Laura and Mary Ingalls, told Ole and Lena jokes. Even with our Norwegian heritage, we still slaughtered the accent, but everyone laughed anyway.
When we went dancing in our costumes after the party at Las Palmas, the band thought we were Amish.
Ole and Lena went to the Olympics. A spectator turned to Ole and said, “Are you a pole vaulter?”
Ole said, “No, I’m Norvegian. And my name isn’t Valter.”My dad, who’s always ready with an Ole and Lena, probably loves this one the most.
Ole died. So Lena went to the local paper to put a notice in the obituaries. The gentleman at the counter, after offering his condolences, asked Lena what she would like to say.Lena replied, “Yust put ‘Ole died.’ ”
The gentleman, somewhat perplexed, said, “That’s it? Surely there must be something more you’d like to say about Ole. The first five words are free.”
So Lena thought for a few minutes and finally said, “OK. Put ‘Ole died. Boat for sale.’ ”
Emily Ford covers the N.C. Research Campus.

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