Posted by: orcaweb | October 9, 2008

ORCA / DFDS Seaways Wildlife Officer Beth Hazell can’t tell the difference between a porpoise and, err, a Guinea pig, on the Dana Sirena

Harwich to Esbjerg (Monday 8th – Wednesday 10th September 2008)


They say it’s all in the translation.  It’s not my fault I didn’t know the Danish word for porpoise had two meanings.


With a change in destination comes a change in the language.  Norwegian and Danish are extremely similar but still there are one or two differences.  Therefore one of the first things I had to do when I got onboard the Dana Sirena was to go through my presentation on the Wildlife of the North Sea and change all the Norwegian words into Danish.  Using an English / Danish dictionary on a colleagues’ computer the job took no time at all and so I was ready to do my first presentation on this ship, or so I thought.


With my equipment set up and my audience in place I started my presentation.  It was all going swimmingly until I showed a picture of a porpoise with both the English and Danish word next to it.  I noticed a few puzzled looks on the faces of some people in the audience and then I heard giggling.   Straight away I knew the word ‘marsvin’ was causing me problems. 


Who would have thought that ‘marsvin’ is a little known word for porpoise, but more familiarly to most of the Danish population it is also the word for guinea pig.  When a member of the audience enlightened me of this fact, images of scuba diving guinea pigs popped into my head.  This is not helpful at all when trying to do a presentation, so I clung on to the last bit of professionalism I could muster as I stifled my own giggles at the guinea pigs that were now swimming around in my head with tiny little scuba fins on their tiny little feet (my world is a wonderful place).


Spot the difference! Beth discovers that the same word is used to describe porpoise and guinea pig in Danish

Spot the difference! Beth discovers that the same word is used to describe porpoise and guinea pig in Danish

Anyway, I have done the presentation a number of times now and know to look for those questioning gazes. I then explain to the audience exactly what I am going to explain to you.  In my professional capacity as a Wildlife Officer I would like to dispel any rumours you may have heard (from said Wildlife Officer) and confirm that Guinea pigs are definitely not cetaceans!


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