Hygge Is the Word


Forget bird. Forget Grease. Hygge is the word.

For those of you who think Danish is something you wash down with coffee, that’s pronounced by the consonant-happy Danes like so: “HOO-gah.” In English, it translates to “cozy.”

Right out of the gate, I prefer the sound of hygge over cozy. When I hear “cozy,” I think of overpaid realtors who love the wimpy euphemism to describe a cramped apartment. Hygge, on the other hand, sounds like something privates might bark in reply to a drill sergeant. Or something a runner might hawk up and spit out to clear his air passages.

I discovered this word in The New York Times in this feature. What it all boils down to is comfort at home. Nothing’s rotten in Denmark if you’ve got a fire blazing, a few dozen candles flickering, a hot cup of coffee, and, of course, big warm socks to fend the cold from your most distant provinces.

You’ll want some porridge, too, and none of this Goldilocks take-out, either. Hearty stuff with ingredients like rye, barley, black lentils, and bits of pumpkin and turkey. And if it’s late in the day, you can dispose of the coffee and substitute in off the bench. You know. Something appropriately Nordic (read: “alcoholic”) like glogg.

What I liked least in the article was it’s not so subtle advertisements for a couple of books on the topic. And its headline, telling Crazy Marie Kondo, the neatnik apparatchik , to move over and give hygge its 30 seconds of fame.

Blah, blah, blah. If you’re hyggelig (the adjective form, pronounced HOO-gah-lee) and you know it, you don’t need no stinking books. Just sort of take the article’s cue and grab the things that make you feel home for the holidays (“holidays” meaning “any day you’re not at work”).

This is all guaranteed stuff, this hygge. The Happiness Institute (yes, Virginia, it does exist) has proclaimed the Danes princes of world happiness year in and year out. How do they do it? A whole lot of hygge. That and bacon.

And so I’ve done my civic duty for the day. Told you to get in touch with your inner Dane. And please. Swear off the Danish pastry, will you? It’s not hyggelig to weigh 250 pounds.