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Ole and Lena Preface

There are about 110 jokes and quips below. Ole and Lena jokes include:

  • Ole and Lena, husband and wife.
  • Ole Jr, their little son.
  • Sven may be a Swede, and is Ole's friend. In some jokes they are brothers, in any case hard-headed immigrants.
  • Lars is another of Ole's friends.

Odd Lovoll writes: "In a series of publications, E. C. "Red" Stangeland [sic] of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, spread his "Ole and Lena jokes" and his "Uff Da Jokes" throughout the United States. His humor is crude . . . Stangeland [sic] appeared in stand-up comic acts with "Uncle Torvald," alias Robert L. Johnson, for twenty-three years until his death in August 1995 . . . Johnson's stereotyping of the Norwegian American typifies current ethnic humor, especially in the Midwest."

Johnson tells in an interview: "Norwegians can take a joke on themselves. Not all groups can do that." [Pna 225-26]

Norwegian Americans are able to jest about their American experience, says Lovoll further. Other practitioners of ethnic humor seem to agree on that as well [Pna 226].

Now "Ole and Lena settings and trappings" vary according to the manifold sources of the jokes. The sources of Ole and Lena jokes are in part [F3]:

  • Older immigrant jokes that give the stock characters, the tone, and a setting for many of the jokes.
  • But not a few of the current jokes are assembled and adapted from a common stock (or pool) which typifies Midwestern humour.
  • Also, some "Ole and Lena" jokes are "driftwood humour" from various sources and places and adapted for joke-telling: they put Ole and Lena and possibly other stock character into the jokes as it fits.

One reason that the Ole and Lena jokes have endured and thrive is that they are quaint and not awfully mean-spirited; that is, they could be worse.

After more than a century, Ole, Lena, Sven and others still speak with the marring accent and fractured English of the immigrant who just arrived. On this page, however, words are hopefully spelled all right.

Ole and Lena in the Wikipedia

Ole and Lena jokes are usually told by Americans of Scandinavian heritage about their own. The ore of this folk humour is probably the strongly egalitarian sense that permeates the cultural code in the Nordic countries. Humour of this sort may help us maintain a sense of perspective among other things. Many of the jokes may be compared to "Blonde jokes" and "Polish jokes".

Ole and Lena jokes can be long or as short as two or three sentences. Oles friend, the Swedish Sven, is seldom as bright as Ole and Lena, but he is usually well-meaning.


Ole and Lena Jokes with Quips and One-Liners

Stories about little Ole

"My school days are over - I can see . . ."

THE TEACHER was writing some sentences on the blackboard when she a [Rsn sic] dropped her chalk. As she bent over to pick it up, little Arnie piped up, "Teacher . . . I can see two inches above your knee."

Outraged, the teacher said, "Arnie, for your impertinence you are expelled from school for one week."

Shortly, the teacher dropped the chalk again and bent over to pick it up. This time little Ralph spoke up, "Teacher . . . I can see four inches above your knee."

Infuriated once again, the teacher ordered little Ralph to be expelled for two weeks. Ten minutes later the teacher once again dropped the chalk; and again, stooped over to pick it up. As she raised up, she noticed little Ole grabbing his school books and heading toward the door.

"Ole, where are you going?" asked the teacher.

Answered Ole . . . "I'm going home teacher, my school days are over." [Cf Rsn 115]

Behaving all right anyway

DURING the minister's prayer one Sunday, there was a loud whistle from a pew in the front row. It was little Ole. His mother Lena beside him was horrified. She pinched him to silence, and after church asked:

"Ole, whatever made you do such a thing?"

Ole answered gingerly:

"I asked God to teach me to whistle, and He just did!" [F65]

LITTLE OLE had been misbehaving and was sent to his room. After a while he emerged and informed his mother that he had thought it over and then said a prayer.

"Fine," said Lena, his pleased mother. "If you ask God to help you not to misbehave, he will help you."

"Oh, I didn't ask him to help me not to misbehave," said Ole, "I asked him to help you put up with me." [F65]

THE PREACHER conversed with Little Ole one sunny day:

"So your mother says your prayers for you each night? Very commendable. What does she say?"

Ole answered, "Thank God he's in bed!" [F65]

Natural Ole

LITTLE OLE was sitting at the kitchen table doing his school homework. He was writing an essay about his origin when he suddenly turned to question his mother.

"Mama, where did Grandma come from?" he asked.

"The stork brought her," answered Lena.

"And where did you come from?" asked Little Ole.

"The stork brought me," answered Lena.

"And where did I come from?" Little Ole asked.

"Well, son, the stork brought you, too," Lena answered.

Little Ole picked up his pencil, turned to his school tablet, and started to write his essay:

"There hasn't been any natural births in our family for three generations!" [F66]

Hannibal's lesson

THE TEACHER caught a daydreaming Little Ole off guard in history class when she suddenly asked, "Ole, what happened when Hannibal crossed the Alps with a hundred elephants?"

Ole said, "He got a mountain range that never forgets." [F67]

OLE'S BOSS had been invited to Ole and Lena's for supper. As Lena was setting the table, Ole's boss casually asked Little Ole what was being served for supper. Little Ole said, "I think it is buzzard . . . because this morning Mama said to Papa, 'If we are going to have that old buzzard for supper, it might as well be tonight.'" [Rsn 254]

Hasty announcement

ONE DAY when he was a lad of six, Little Ole climbed out of the swimming pool and announced to Ole and Lena, "I just did someting in the swimming pool I wasn't supposed to do."

Several dozen people in the pool overheard the remark, and climbed out at once. Seeing the furore he had created, Little Ole hastened to explain to his folks that the thing he wasn't supposed to do was swim at the deep end. [Cf Rsn 317]

Quips and One-Liners

THE DOCTOR asked Ole when he discovered he had diarrhea.

Said Ole, "When I took off my bicycle clips." [Rsn 44]

HOW CAN you tell if the Norwegian you're talking with is extroverted or introverted?

"He's extroverted if it is your shoes he keeps looking on." [David Mauk]

WHERE do they send baby puppies who don't have a mommy or a daddy?

The arffanage. [Ken Craig, F35]

OLE: What do they call outhouses in Chicago?

LARS: "The Unflushables." [Rsn 272]

AT ONE time Ole ran a dairy farm and did pretty well. He adpted a slogan which he hung on the wall:

"All dat I am . . . I owe to udders." [Rsn 240 and elsewhere]

Q: WHAT happens when you play a country music song backwards?

A: You get your girl back, you get your truck back, you may even get your dog back - [F59]

WHAT DID the Swede say to the Norwegian at the breakfast table? . . . "Hurry up and Finnish your Danish!" - Dale Heltzer [F54]

WHAT DO you get when you cross a Lutheran and a Buddhist?

Someone who sits up all night worrying about nothing.

- WC Ginn. [F46]

WHAT DO you get when you cross an insomniac, an agnostic and a dyslexic?

Someone who lies awake at night wondering if there really is a dog. [F47]

A NORWEGIAN answers the phone at 3 a.m. Wrong number, so the caller apologizes.

"That's OK," said the Norwegian. "I had to get up to answer the phone anyway." [Rsn 38]

TORVALD: Everybody should believe in something.

OLE: "Well, I believe I'll have a hot dog." [Cf Rsn 67]

OLE SAYS he is grateful for soap operas and TV game shows. He says, "At least it keeps millions of women drivers off the road most of the day. [Rsn 226]

LARS: I heard that you had to shoot your dog, Fido. Was he mad?

OLE: Well, he wasn't exactly pleased about it. [Rsn 13]

INQUIRING REPORTER: What do you think of Red China?

DANE: If you have a yellow table cloth, it should look all right. [Rsn 206]

MAN: (Watching a funeral procession) "Who died?"

NORWEGIAN: I think it was the guy in the casket. [Rsn 42]

OLE REMEMBERS the depression times vividly. "I can remember," he tells little Ole, "that when I stepped on a dime, my shoe soles vere so thin I could tell whether it was heads or tails." [Rsn 82]

CAB-DRIVERS: Ole says, "It's a shame that all the folks who REALLY know how to run the country are all driving cabs or cutting hair." [Rsn 127]


"DO INFANTS enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?

Why do croutons come in airtight packages? It's just stale bread to begin with.

If people from Poland are called Poles, why aren't people from Holland called Holes?" asks Rita Gillmer.

A DOG breed that didn't quite make it: Collie + Lhasa Apso – Collapso.

Domestic Life

"A WIFE is a person who helps you through all the troubles you wouldn't have had if you hadn't got married." - Ole

LENA WAS in the bathtub when the door bell rrrang.

"Who is it?" she called out.

"Blind man," came the answer from the front door.

Lena got out of the tub, walked straight to the front door without so much as a stitch of clothes, and threw open the door.

There stood a man who asked, "Where do you want me to put these blinds, lady?"

OLE WAS staggering home from the tavern one night, weaving from side to side. The Lutheran minister saw him and, in a good Samaritan impulse, offered to guide Ole to his home. As they approached the house, Ole suggested that the minister go inside for a moment. He explained,

"I want Lena to see who I have been out with." [Rsn 15]

LENA WAS awakened from a deep sleeep at two AM by her husband Ole who handed her a glass of water and two aspirins.

"What's this for?" she asked.

"It's for your headache," he muttered.

"But I don't have a headache."

"Gotcha!" [F50 - From Max B.]

ONE DAY Lena confided to her friend Hilda how she had finally cured Ole of his nervous habit of biting his finger-nails.

"It was really simple," said Lena. "I just hid his false teeth." [F58]

WHEN OLE and Lena got married and went on their honeymoon, Lena was a bit bashful. As they walked up to the hotel, Lena said, "What can we do so they won't know we're newly-weds?"

Answered Ole, "You carry the luggage." [Rsn 84]

OLE AND Lena were lying in bed one night when the phone rang, Ole answered it and Lena heard him yell,

"Well, how should I know, that's over 2,000 miles away", and then he hung up.

Lena said, "Who was that, Ole?"

Ole answered, "Some oddball who wanted to know if the coast is clear." [F21]

OLE WAS driving a wagonload of wheat to town when a wheel was caught in the ditch and overturned. Sven saw it and came out to inspect a little.

"Hey, Ole," he called out. "I'll help you turn the wagon back over and fill it up again. But I'm about to eat dinner. Why don't you come and have dinner with me? Then we'll go to work."

"Thank you, Sven," Ole answered, "but I don't think Lena would like me to."

"Oh, come on!" Sven insisted.

"OK," Ole finally agreed, "but Lena won't like it."

After a hearty dinner, Ole thanked his host. "I feel a lot better now, but I know Lena's going to be upset," he said.

"Don't worry so much," said Sven. "By the way, where is she?"

"Under the wagon," said Ole. [F25]

Nightly squeezes

WHEN OLE and Lena were young and in love they would go to their favourite spot to park. One night while parked and hugging and kissing, Ole asked Lena, "Lena, would you like to go in the back?"

"No," she answered.

So they hugged and kissed some more. Again, Ole asked Lena to go in the back.

Lena answered, "Ole, why are you always asking me to go in the back, I want to stay in front with you!" [F6]

ONE DAY Ole was at the store and was talking with a gentleman when he said, "I really don't know what I should get Lena for our anniversary."

"Well, what did you get her last time?" asked the other.

"I took her on a trip to Germany," answered Ole.

"Maybe you should take her on another trip," suggested the other.

Ole thought for a while and then said happily, "It would be the perfect gift! I'll send her a airline ticket so she can come back!"

[Thanks to Otto Mobile] [F12]


LENA DECIDED that she and Ole needed a bit of culture so she bought tickets to the ballet. That evening, after watching the performance for about thirty minutes, Ole leant over to Lena and whispered in her ear,

"I don't see why they dance on their toes. Why don't they just get taller dancers?" [F1]

LENA: Why do you go on the balcony when I sing? Don't you like to hear me sing?

OLE: Well, I just want the neighbours to see I'm not beating my wife. [Rsn 99 and 112]

OLE LAY sprawled across three seats in the posh theater. The usher took note of this and whispered, "Pardon, sir, but you're only allowed one seat."

Ole groaned, but didn't budge. The usher wasn't going to let things pass. "Sir, if you don't get up from there I'm going to have to call the manager," he growled.

Ole just groaned some more. The usher trotted up the aisle, and came right back with the manager. Still, they couldn't get Ole to pull himself together, so they called the cops.

"All right buddy, what's your name?" one cop demanded.


"From where, Ole?"

"The balcony." [F7]


OLE WAS hiking in the mountains of Norway when he slipped on a wet rock and fell over the edge of a five-hundred-foot cliff. He had fallen twenty feet when he got hold of a bush that was growing out of a rock. There he was dangling, looking down at the deep fjord down below - it was certain death. His hands started to perspire and he called out, "Is there anybody up there to help me?"

Then he heard a reassuring, deep voice ringing out, "I'm here, Ole. The Lord. Have faith. Let go of that bush and I will save you."

Ole looked down, looked up, and said, "Is there anyone else up there?" [F9]

"Thin no more"

Ole and Lena jokes TIMES were tough, so Ole decided to try his hand at painting. He was hired to paint the Lutheran church and he was doing well until he reached the steeple; at that point, he was running low on paint. So, Ole decided to make the paint last by thinning it out with some turpentine. As he neared the top of the steeple, he witnessed a flash of lightning and rolling thunder, accompanied by a voice from the heavens:

"OLE . . . OLE . . . REPAINT . . . AND THIN NO MORE." [Rsn 293]

When it rains it pours

OLE ANSWERED the phone and came back to the living room crying.

"Well, Ole! What in the world is the matter?" asked the sympathetic Lena.

"I just had bad news, Lena," said Ole, "My father just died."

Just then the rang again, Ole went to answer it and came back crying again.

"Well, now, Ole, what is the matter?" asked Lena.

"That was my brother." said Ole. "His father just died too!" [F10]

A NORWEGIAN went to his Doctor for a physical, complaining about his sex life. The Doc told him to walk ten miles a day, then call him on the phone. A week later, the Norwegian telephoned his Doctor. "How's your sex life," inquired the Doc.

"What sex?" blurted the Norwegian. "I'm seventy miles from home." [Rsn 12]

OLE AND Lena had married under not so happy circumstances, and their married life had not been anything to brag of either. But when Ole went to the local judge to ask for an annulment after being married for thirty-five years, the whole town gasped with amazement.

A date for a hearing was set, and when the time came the judge insisted to know the reasons why Ole demanded an annulment.

"It's like this," announced Ole, "I just learned that Lena's father never had a license to carry that gun." [F8]


OLE AND Lena got married. On their honeymoon trip they were nearing Minneapolis when Ole put his hand on Lena's knee.

Giggling, Lena said, "Ole, you can go a little further now if you want to -" . . . so Ole drove to Duluth. [F15]

OLE AND SVEN were on their very first train ride. They had brought along bananas for lunch. Just as they began to peel them, the train entered a long, dark tunnel.

"Have you eaten your banana yet?" Ole asked excitedly.

"No, " replied Sven.

"Well don't touch it," Ole exclaimed, "I just took one bite and went blind!" [F71]

OLE BOUGHT a ticket for a flight to Chicago. He bought some flight insurance. One his way to the plane, he stepped on a scale which read his fortune. He became panicky when he read his fortune on a little card: "The investment you made today will pay off tomorrow." [Rsn 280]

OLE'S WIFE, Lena: "There's trouble with the car, sweetheart. It has water in the carburetor."

Ole: "Water in the carburetor? That's ridiculous."

Lena: "Ole, I tell you the car has water in the carburetor."

Ole: "You don't even know what a carburetor is. I'll check it out. Where's the car?"

Lena: "In the lake." [F30]

OLE AND Sven had been away from their wives for about a month while they were visiting some relatives in Norway. Now the two of them were on a flight from Oslo to Minneapolis when the captain spoke across the loudspeaker. He said that the number one engine went out and the arrival would be half an hour delayed.

"That's not so bad," said Ole.

A little later the captain spoke again and told the passengers that engine number two went out and there would be an hour's delay. Ole looked at Sven who was sitting next to him and said,

"Well, this is sort of unusual. I hope we don't get any other delays, Sven. Does the pilot know what he's doing?"

"Just lay back and relax, Ole," said Sven.

Ole managed to take a little snooze. He was awakened when the captain interrupted for a third time to tell everyone that engine number three had just gone out. They would be an hour and a half late now.

"Uff-da!" exclaimed Ole, "I hope that last engine doesn't go out, Sven, for if it does, we'll be up here all night!" [F27]

ONE FINE spring day Ole took Lena for a drive in his brand new car. As they were driving through town, a policeman pulled them over and told Ole that he was doing 50 miles an hour in a 30 zone.

"Oh, no," Ole protested violently, "I was only doing thirty, officer."

"Fifty," replied the policeman. "I clocked you."

At that point Lena in the back seat tried to be helpful and spoke up. "Officer, you shouldn't argue with Ole when he's been drinking." [F26]

The Baby

OLE AND Lena went to the hospital so that Lena could give birth to their first baby. Ole waited in the lobby. Finally the doctor came out to inform him, saying,

"The good news is that you have a normal baby boy. The bad news is that is is a Caesarian."

Ole was startled, "I'm glad it is a healthy baby . . . but I was hoping it would be a Norwegian." [F57]

ON A NASTY and cold winter night Lena woke up her Ole and said, "The baby's coming, Ole, you had better call the doctor."

The phone and electricity were out, so Ole saddled his horse and rode ten miles for the doctor. The doctor came back, examined Lena, and said, "Yes, she's in labour. Ole, make yourself useful. Light a kerosene lantern, hold it just right there, and I'll deliver the baby."

Ole held the lantern and pretty soon the doctor said, "Here it comes, Ole – you're the father of a baby boy! But wait, Ole, hold the lantern steady –" and a few minutes later, the doctor said, "It's twins, Ole, you're the father of twins! But hold the lantern steady, Ole – I think it's going to be triplets!"

Ole said, "Doctor, do you think it's the light that's attracting them?" [F16]

OLE AND Lena were expecting their first baby. As the time approached, Lena announced, "I think it's time for the baby . . . but with the traffic this time of day, I'm not sure we will get to the hospital in time."

Ole thought a minute and then said, "Well, maybe we had better take two cars. That way, one of us is sure to make it." [Rsn 72]

Interesting Thinking

ONE PARTICULAR Sunday Ole was lying back in the hammock and having just returned from church with Lena he was feeling a little religious.

"God," said Ole, "when you made Lena, why did you make her so nice and round and so pleasant to hold?"

Suddenly a voice from above said, "So you would love her, Ole."

"Well then, why," asked Ole, "why did you make her so stupid?"

"So that she would love you," said the voice. [F19]

LENA STEPPED up to the clerk in the department store and said,

"Can I try on that dress in the window?"

The clerk responded, "We'd really prefer that you try it on in the dressing room."

LENA: "I just bought myself a new hat. I like to buy a hat for myself when I'm down in the dumps."

Ole: "Hmmmm . . . I wondered where you found it."

LENA CALLED the airlines information desk and inquired,

"How long does it take to fly from Minneapolis to Fargo?"

"Just a minute -," said the busy clerk.

"Well," said Lena, "if it has to go that fast, I think I'll just take the bus." [F28]

TWO FARMERS were in a bar bragging to each other about the size of their lands. The first one said, "I can leave my house at daybreak and drive all day without leaving my property."

The second one leant back and responded, "Yes, yes, I once had a car like that, too." [F52]

A NORWEGIAN carrying a rock, a chicken, and a pail paused at a closed gate. He asked a Norwegian farm girl if she'd open the gate. She declined, saying, "You might make love to me."

Snorted the Norsky, "How could I make love to you with a rock, a chicken and a pail in my arms?"

"Well," said the girl, "you could set the chicken down, put the pail over it, and then set the rock on top of the pail." [Rsn or F20]

A solution?

DOCTOR: "The best thing you can do, Ole, is quit drinking."

Ole: "And what's next best?" [F36]

LENA GREETED Ole at the door of their apartment when he came home from work.

"Guess what," said Lena. "Do you remember we've been talking about getting a more expensive apartment?"

"What about it?" said Ole.

"Well," said Lena. "We don't have to look. The landlord just raised the rent!" [F22]

WHEN THE Norwegian accidentally lost 50 cents in the outhouse, he at once threw in his watch and billfold.

He explained, "I'm not going down there just for fifty cents." [F23]

Fit for Leisure Time

SVEN AND Ole heard so much about ice fishing that they decided to try it. Just before they got to a frozen lake, they stopped at a little bait shop to buy their bait and tackle.

Sven said to Ole, "We're going to need an ice pick."

The got it and took off. In about two hours, though, Ole was back at the shop and said, "We're going to need another dozen of ice picks."

The shopkeeper sold Ole the picks, and he left. But after one more hour Sven came back and said, "We will need all the ice picks you've got."

The bait man halted, "How are you fellows doing?"

"Not too good," said Sven. "We haven't got the boat in the water yet." [F24]

OLE COMPLAINED to his landlord. "The people upstairs are so annoying! Last night they stomped and pounded on the floor till almost midnight."

"Did they wake you up?" asked the landlord.

"No," said Ole, "Fortunately, I was playing my tuba." [Rsn 288]

SVEN AND OLE went to the lake, rented a boat and went fishing. They eventually found a great spot and quickly caught their limit. On the way back to the dock Ole said, "That surely was good fishing. How will we ever find that place again?"

Sven said, "Don't worry. While we were there, I put an X on the side of the boat."

"But that won't work!" Ole said.

"Why not?"

"How do we know we'll get the same boat next time?" [F17]

A solution

LARS, OLE, and Sven were playing golf. The party at the next tee were hitting balls all over the place.

Ole said, "What is wrong with those guys, they are taking forever to tee off?"

The groundskeeper stood nearby and explained to them, "It's a sad story. Those blind men were firemen who came to put out a fire at the clubhouse and were blinded by the smoke. We felt so bad that we decided to let them play for free since."

Sven said the trying, "Why can't they just play at night?" [F49]

Extraordinary Happenings

OLE AND Lena were so excited to get a new cell phone. Ole was to call when he was on his way home from town. Ole called Lena when he entered the freeway.

"Lena put supper on, I'm on my way home."

Lena said, "Be careful because I hear some nut is driving the wrong way on the freeway."

"It's worse than that Lena, where I am there are a hundred cars going the wrong way!" [F51]

Terminal Difficulties

OLE GOT into a lot of trouble recently at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport. He was walking through the terminal when he spotted his old friend, Jack Trygstad.

Ole made his big mistake when he shouted across the terminal, "HI, JACK!" [Rsn 28]

LARS GOT a parrot for his birthday. The parrot was pretty to look at, fully grown, but had a rude vocabulary. Lars tried and tried to make the bird say nice words to no avail. He even shook the bird, but it made the bird only more unwelcoming.

In a burst of desperation he put the bird in the freezer. For a few minutes he heard the bird swearing, and then there was absolute quiet. Lars quickly opened the freezer door for fear of killing the bird.

Out it came. The parrot stepped measuredly out onto Lars's extended arm and said,

"Forgive me for offending you, please. I will strive to correct my faulty behaviour from now on". The bird went on, "And tell me, what wrong did the chicken do?" [F61]

A YOUNG Norwegian walked through New York Chinatown and noticed a laundry with the name Peter Jensen's Laundry. Curiously he walked into it and asked an old Chinese who was sitting there in a chair,

"Can you tell me how did this place get a name like Peter Jensen's Laundry?"

The old man said, "Yes. When I first came to this country I was standing in line at the Immigration Office. The man in front of me was a tall, blond Norwegian. The lady behind the counter asked him, 'What is your name?' 'Peter Jensen,' he said. Then the woman asked me, 'What is your name?' and I said 'Sam Ting'. [F63]

LENA BOUGHT a parrot at an auction after some very spirited bidding. "Are you sure this bird talks?" asked Lena.

"Talk?" replied the auctioneer. "He's been bidding against you for the past ten minutes." [Rsn 298]

Ola and Per

Han Ola og han Per
Han Ola (right) og han Per.

Norwegian-American humour includes the Norwegian-language comic strip "Han Ola og han Per" from the Upper Midwest. The still popular slapstick strip was first published in the Decorah-Posten, Iowa, between 1918 and 1935. There are still reprints and reruns, and on 18 May 2002 a bronze statue of Ola and Per was unveiled in Spring Grove, Minnesota, where the cartoonist/farmer Peter Julius Rosendahl lived.

The first strip from a time when tools and machinery revolutionized farming too, ends on this revealing note: "Do I know where I'm going?" The follies that follow, show that the characters rarely do it full well. Two books reveal the riches of Rosendahl's strip: [Hp and Mop].

Ola and Per strips

Religious Issues

Actual Church Bulletins

Don't let worry kill you off - let the church help.

The concert held in Fellowship Hall was a great success. Special thanks are due to the minister's daughter, who laboured the whole evening at the piano, which as usual fell upon her.

The Rev. Merriwether spoke briefly, much to the delight of the audience.

Next Sunday Mrs. Vinson will be soloist for the morning service. The pastor will then speak on "It's a Terrible Experience."

At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What is Hell?" Come early and listen to our choir practice. [F72]

A Catholic

WHEN OLE moved north he discovered that he was the only Lutheran in a little town of Catholics. That was okay, but the neighbours had a problem with his barbecuing venison every Friday. Since they were forbidden to eat meat on Fridays, the aroma was so tempting that something had to be done.

Neighbours went over to Ole and managed to convince him to join their church. The big day came and the priest made Ole kneel. He put his hand on Ole's head and said, "Ole, you were born a Lutheran, you were raised a Lutheran, and now," he said as he sprinkled some incense over Ole's head, "now you are a Catholic!"

Ole was happy and the neighbours were happy. But the following Friday evening at suppertime, the aroma of grilled deer steaks was coming from Ole's yard. The neighbours went to talk to him about it. As they approached the fence, they heard Ole say,

"You were born a deer, you were raised a deer, and now," he said as he sprinkled seasoning salt over the choice tender loin cut, "now you are a fish!" [F39 and F40]

OLE AND Sven took their poles and headed out to do some ice fishing. As they were augering a hole in the ice they heard a loud voice from above say, "There is no fish under the ice. Go somewhere else."

Ole an Sven moved about 25 feet over and started to make another hole. The voice came again, a little stronger, "There is no fish under the ice. Go somewhere else."

They both looked around and then looked up. Ole said humbly, "Are you God?"

The voice, "No, the ice rink attendant." [F41]

A THIEF broke into the respectable home of Ole's friend Gustav and had just started going through a jewelry box when he heard a voice saying, "Jesus is watching you!"

The thief looked around but didn't see anybody, so he continued going through the jewel case. Then he heard the voice again, "Jesus is watching you!"

The thief decided to check out what it could be. He went into the living room and in the corner was a parrot who said, "Hello, I'm Moses."

The thief said, "Moses? What kind of people would name their parrot Moses?"

The parrot said, "The same people who name their rottweiller Jesus." [F43]

Not exactly modesty

OLE WAS walking along a beach and found a lamp. He rubbed it and a genie appeared and told him, "I will grant you one wish but on one condition; whatever you ask for, your mother-in-law will receive the double of it."

Ole thought for a while and said, "All right, give me fifty million dollars and beat me halfway to death." [F44]

WHEN OLE came to America from Norway, he was extremely nervous when it came time to apply for citizenship. He approached the judge who gave the exam and confessed, "Yudge . . . I don't speak Englesk so purtly good . . . I am yust a poor uneducated Norvegian. I'm afraid about taking de citizen testing.

"Don't you vorry, Ole . . . we going make you a citizen of Junited States sure as my name is Yudge Bjorn Torvaldson." [Pna 225]

OLE AND Lena's Sons of Norway chapter had a guest speaker who was a science professor at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. The professor told of advances in science that would enable an apartment owner to heat an entire apartment building for a whole year with just one lump of coal. Ole turned to Lena and snorted,

"Who's he kidding? Our landlord has been doing that for years." [Rsn 62]

OLE: Where is your brother Ingvald now?

AXEL: Oh, Ingvald is at Harvard.

OLE: Harvard? What is he studying?

AXEL: He's not studying anything . . . they are studying him. [Rsn 225]

OLE WAS running his fish boat in Puget Sound one day when he rescued a half dozen lawyers who were on a fishing trip. Sharks had been circling the scene, but they made no attempt to bother the lawyers.

Mused Ole, "Must be professional courtesy." [Rsn 217]

A NORWEGIAN was bragging up America to his cronies in a bar in Norway. "Yah, it is wonderful in America. You go into a bar, have a few free drinks . . . then you go in the back room and have free sex. Then you go back and have some more free drinks . . . then you go back in the back room and have more free sex. You can keep it up like that all night."

Sven was listening dubiously and remarked, "Ole what do you know about these things . . . you've never been to America?"

"I know," admitted Ole . . . "but my sister has." [Rsn 116]

TWO NORWEGIANS from Minnesota went fishing in Canada. They caught one fish. When they got back, one of the Norwegians said,

"The way I figure our expenses, that fish cost us $400."

"Well," said the other Norwegian, "at that price, it's a good ting we didn't catch any more." [Rsn 21]

OLE TELLS us that Lena's mother came to Minnesota in a covered wagon. He adds, "and if you ever have seen Lena's mother, then you would know why the wagon was covered." [Rsn 291]

OLE AND Lena won a trip to Paris. While on a conducted tour of the famed Louvre Museum, Ole and Lena wandered away from the crowd. When they came upon the centuries-old statue of the Venus de Milo, Ole nervously grabbed Lena by the sleeve, saying,

"Come on, Lena. We had better get out of here or they might think we were the ones who broke the arms off." [Rsn 230]

Aside: Venus from Milo again

Venus from Milo
Will Rogers (1879-1935) had a young niece. On a visit to Paris he sent a picture postcard of the Venus de Milo to her and wrote on the back:

"See what will happen to you if you don't stop biting your fingernails." [Of]

OLE HAD to see a doctor, so he chose one who claimed to diagnose people simply by looking into their eyes. As he looked into Ole's eyes, he stated, "I believe you have a locked bowel."

"Oh no," said Ole, "I've got the diarrhea. So you're wrong."

"I'm never wrong," said the doctor. "You do have a locked bowel. It just happens to be locked in the open position." [Cf Rsn 325]

ANTONEN, the Finn, thinks it's unlucky to be superstituous. [Rsn 229]

WOMAN: Oh, my goodness . . . my husband is driving in the driveway!

NORWEGIAN: I had better get out of here. Where is your back door?

WOMAN: We don't have a back door.

NORWEGIAN: Well, where would you like one? [Rsn 6]

A NORWEGIAN strolled into the Grand Hotel in Oslo and asked for a room.

Clerk: "I'm sorry, there are no more rooms available."

Norwegian: "If King Olav came in, would you have a room for him?"

Clerk: "Why, certainly."

Norwegian: "Well, he isn't coming, so give me his room." [Rsn 64]

LENA SAYS grocery shopping is getting to one just like a religious experience. She says,

"All you see is people going up and down the aisles, and when all see the prices, they all say, "O MY GOD. O MY GOD." [Rsn 150}

THE NORWEGIAN was searching frantically for a half dollar when his friend strolled by.

"Where did you lose it?" asked the friend.

"Over there by my car," answered the Norwegian.

"Well, why don't you do your looking over by your car?"

"Because," said the Norsky, "the light is much better here." [Rsn 11]

The same "driftwood story" appears as a story of Hodja Nasreddin (Mulla Nasrudin).


A NORWEGIAN got a job in the fertiliser factory. The boss tried to determine the extent of the Norwegian's abilities. "Tell me, do you know anything about nitrates?"

Answered the Norwegian . . . "All I know is they are cheaper than day rates." [Rsn 66]

Knute: "My second cousin just won a million dollars in the New York lottery. He says he's never going to work another day in his life."

Nels: "Oh, he's quitting his job?"

Knute: "No, he's staying on at the post office." [Rsn 198]

SVEN WAS hired to paint the yellow stripe down the highway. His first day he painted ten miles. The second day he only painted five.

His boss, thinking that he was getting slower because he had started off too hard on the first day, decided to give him a day off to rest. But when Sven came back to work the next day, he only painted half a mile.

So his boss asked, "Excuse me, but why have you been painting less and less each day, even after I gave you a day off?"

"Simple, " Sven answered. "I've been getting farther away from the paint can!" [F11]

OLE TOOK a notion to get into politics. He began making speeches all over Minnesota, including the Indian reservations. He was giving a spirited address to members of the Santee tribe and every time he made a stirring statement, the tribal members would all shout: "OONGAH"! OONGAH"!"

Ole felt he had made a good impression, so he stepped off the platform so he could leave for his next stop. As one of the Indians guided Ole to his car, he suddenly cautioned him:

"Watch out Ole . . . don't step in the Oongah." [Rsn 39]

WHEN HORSES still did much and hard farm work, Claus answered a knock on his door and there was his friend Ole, very troubled. Claus said, "Uff da, Ole, come in, what's wrong? You look terrible!"

Ole stammered, "You know my best horse Lena? She d-died last night!"

Claus and Ole were both solemnly silent for some time, contemplating life's setbacks. But Ole could not contain his grief; after a while he stammered, "It's a funny thing too, she has never done that before!"

[Purportedly a true story - originally by Dave Dukleth] [F14]

OLE BOUGHT a farm near Frost, Minnesota. He started out with two windmills, but shortly took one of them down, explaining, "I figure there isn't enough wind for TWO of them." [Rsn 272]

A NORWEGIAN applied for a job at the Chicago police department. He was given test after test, but could pass none of them. Desiring to have a Norwegian in the department, as a member of a minority, the Police captain decided to try one more test . . . this one with only one question, "Who shot Lincoln?"

The Norwegian answered, "I don't know."

"Look," said the Captain, "take this question home and study it. Maybe when you come back tomorrow you'll know the answer."

That night, the Norwegian's friends asked him if he got the job.

"I think I might have," said the Norwegian, "They've got me working on a murder case already." [Rsn 9]

A Norwegian gave his mother-in-law a cemetery plot for her birthday. Next year he gave her nothing. When his wife asked why not, the Norwegian answered, "Well, she didn't use the present I gave her last year." [Rsn 95]

OLE DID some carpenter work for a mental asylum and one day he noticed his car had a flat tire. While trying to change the tire, Ole lost 5 studs in the mud. One of inmates walked up and suggested that Ole take one stud off each wheel and that would last until he got to the garage. Ole was amazed and said, "That is good thinking. By the way, why are you in here?"

Inmate: "For being crazy, not stupid." [Rsn 86 - modified]

Old Enough

Almost every day

SO, YOU two have been married over 50 years . . . tell me, do you still make love.

Old male voice: "Sure we make love . . . almost every day."

Really? Almost every day?

"That's right . . . almost on Monday . . . almost on Tuesday . . . almost on Wednesday . . ." [F64]

OLE HAD ben placed in a nursing home and before long, things got boring. So, Ole made a sign by hand that read: "Whoopee on the bed, $20; on the chair, $10; on the floor, $5."

He put the sign outside his door but nothing happened until three days later there was a rap on his door. There stood a little old lady with a $20 bill in her hand.

"Oh," said Oke, "I suppose you want one on the bed?"

"No," said the old girl. "I want four on the floor."

LENA WENT to the doctor because she hadn't been feeling well. After some tests the doctor confronted Lena with the shocking news that at age 80 she was going to have a baby.

"A BABY . . . at MY Age . . . 80 years old? Impossible!"

"Well," the doctor said, "that's what the tests show and they never miss."

Furious, Lena picked up the doctor's phone to call Ole.

"Ole, you old fool," she yelled, "YOU have made me pregnant!"

There was a pause on the other end of the line and finally Ole spoke hesitantly.

"Wh-wh-who is this speaking?" [Rsn 305]

OLE HAD been going to the doctor and on the most recent occasion, the doctor advised him to eat less, work harder, and not go on any vacations.

"Will that help my condition?" asked Ole.

"Well, no," admitted the doctor, "but it will enable you to pay your bill sooner." [Rsn 313]

AANENSON, the wealthy milk tycoon was telling Ole about his new girl friend. "She's 30 and I'm 65. Do you think I would have a better chance of getting her to marry me if I tell her I'm 50?"

"No," said Ole, "I think you would have a better chance if you told her you were 80." [Rsn 269]

OLE AND Lena went to a lawyer to see about getting a divorce.

"How old are you folks?" asked the lawyer.

"Well, I'm 90 and Lena is 89," said Ole.

"How come you are getting a divorce now?" asked the lawyer.

Said Ole: "We wanted to wait till all the kids were dead." [Rsn 279]

To die a Swede

OLE AND Sven lived on farms on each side of the border between Norway and Sweden. As boys they played together and were the greatest of friends. But as they grew older, they became aware of many rigidly held notions about "being Norwegians" and "being Swedes".

In good-natured ways they kidded each other through the years about the merits of being Norwegian or being Swede. This went on all their lives, till one sunny day Sven blurted out in an unfriendly way,

"I was born a Swede, I have lived all my life a Swede, and I am going to die a Swede!"

Ole said: "But Sven, haven't you got any ambition at all?"

"Here lies Ole"

OLE AND Lena were up in years and Ole passed on to his heavenly reward. Pastor Sven had the funeral service and offended Lena a bit in his sermon comments, especially when he said,

"Here lies Ole but it is not really Ole. It is just the shell of Ole. The nut, Ole, has gone on to heaven."

- Pastor Roy A. Steward, Vice President, Lutheran Ministerium and Synod. [F2]

At the end of the line

LENA PASSED away and Ole called 911. The 911 operator told Ole that she would send someone out right away.

"Where do you live?" asked the operator.

Ole answered, "At the end of Eucalyptus Drive."

"Can you spell that for me?" the operator asked.

There was a long pause and finally Ole said, "How about if I drag her over to Oak Street and you pick her up there?" [F31]

LENA: "OLE, if I die first, will you promise to ride to the cemetery with my mother?"

Ole: "Well, I suppose I can. But, I tell you . . . it will ruin my whole day." [F4]

LENA LAY dying, and on her deathbed she decided to make a confession. "Ole, I have to confess to you before I go that I was unfaithful to you."

"That's OK, Lena," answered Ole, "I have a confesson to make too. It was me that poisoned you." [Rsn 69]

OLE WENT to the doctor for a physical. After Ole was dressed the doctor came in and said,

"I'm sorry Ole, but you are very sick and have only a few weeks to live."

Ole went home with a heavy heart to tell Lena the news. After Ole told Lena he sat in his easy chair and Lena went to the kitchen. Soon Ole began to smell a heavenly aroma that came from their kitchen. Lena was making his favorite cookies!

"Lena must really love me," thought Ole. He went into the kitchen and started to take a cookie, but Lena slapped his hand away and said,

"Ole, you can't eat these. The cookies are for the funeral!" [F18]

OLE ON getting old: "You know you're getting old when you can't remember why - and also when you know all the answers, but nobody asks you the questions." [cf. Rsn 134]

LENA WENT to the doctor for a check-up. The doctor said there seemed to be a slight heart problem and advised her to take some pills for two weeks and then come back.

"Most of all, don't climb any stairs," advised the doctor.

"We have a two story house," protested Lena.

"Well, I understand that," said the doctor, "but it's important that you don't climb any stairs."

Two weeks later, Lena came back and the doctor pronounced her hale and healthy.

"Can I climb stairs again?" asked Lena.

"Of course," answered the doctor.

"Good," said Lena, "because I was getting tired of climbing up that drainpipe every night." [Rsn 245]

DOCTOR (on the phone): Ole I have to tell you . . . your check came back.

Ole: Well, let me tell YOU something. So did my arthritis! [Rsn 251]


From the Norwegian-American Culture

SPEAKER: "In this day and age, it is hazardious to use any jokes about ethnic groups. Many politicians and other public figures have gotten into trouble by using ethnic jokes. It is much safer to tell a story using a lost civilization like the Hittites. You've read about the Hittites in the Bible. They no longer exist. So, with your permission, I would like to tell you a story about two Hittites named Ole and Lars -" [Rsn 113]


Telling ethnic jokes can . . . be the beginning of a friendship. . . . Norwegians and other Scandinavians have a strong tolerance for jokes on their identities. [Rsn vii]

Culture loss worth considering

Some people say that jokes are usually made at someone's expense.

"Acceptable use of ethnic humour depends upon the setting, the intent, the teller, the listener and the current climate. Is it hostile? Friendly?

"If we don't give some jokes a little leeway, how can we have a culture that is engaging, humorous and self-critical, without homogenizing the society?" [F76]


What did the Norwegian say when he saw his first pizza?

"Who threw up on that lefse?" [Rsn 27]

According to Einar Haugen's Norwegian-English dictionary, lefse is "a thin pancake from rolled dough served buttered (and sugared) and folded." It stands out as a pastry made from potatoes, flour, butter and whipping cream (there's a recipe below). It tastes well; lefse (lef-suh) is to some Norwegian-Americans as the tortilla is to the Mexican.

The most common way to prepare lefse is to spread a thin layer of butter, sprinkle with sugar (or sugar and cinnamon), roll and eat it - with a meal in place of a dinner roll or by itself as a snack. Lefse can be used taco style with meat and cheese or polish sausage. Lefse is nutritious and compliments almost any meal. Lefse is palatable to most people.

Combine all ingredients except flour; refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Add flour; mix well. Heat lefse or other griddle to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Form dough into long roll and cut into 12 sections. Form each section into a small ball. Roll out very thin with cloth-covered lefse or regular rolling pin on cloth-covered lefse board or other surface. Dust board with flour when turning lefse dough. Bake on ungreased girddle until brown spots appear. Turn and bake other side. Stack lefse between 2 towels to cool. Store in refrigerator in plastic bags. Can be frozen.

From "The Lefse song"

It may be sung to the tune of "Camptown Races" in the shower and other places:

Went down town for some lutefisk . . . Uff da! Uff Da!
The weather was so cold and brisk, all the Uff Da day.
Used my lefse for a Mackinaw . . . Uff Da . . . Uff Da
Greatest jacket I ever saw . . .
Lefse saved the day.


Gonna bake all night . . . gonna bake all day
I'll spend my money on potatoes and flour . . .
To have me an Uff Da day. [Rsn 163 - excerpts]

A Mackinaw is (1) heavy woolen blanket or (2) a heavy cloth of wool or wool and other fibers often with a plaid design and usually heavily napped and felted, (3) or a short coat of mackinaw or similar heavy fabric.

The "Uff da" Expression

For many Scancinavians "Uff Da" is an all-purpose expression with a variety of nuances, and covering a variety of situations such as:

  • Uff Da - walking downtown and then wondering what you wanted.
  • Uff Da - noticing non-Norwegians at a church dinner using lefse for a napkin. [F1 ]
  • Uff Da is the same as Charlie Brown's "Good Grief".
  • Uff Da - waking yourself up in church with your own snoring.
  • Uff Da - trying to pour two buckets of manure into one bucket.
  • Uff Da - when your two "steady" girl friends find out about each other. [Cf Rsn 137-38]

A case of unintended humour: Uff da greeting

Odd Lovoll on Uff da: "The expression has lost its original connotation, [and it is] hard to specify what it means now in America."

He also tells "a true story about a Lutheran congregation that wished to welcome a new clergyman who had come from Norway. They decided that saying something in Norwegian would be appropriate. When the pastor entered the church for the first time on Sunday they all shouted in unison: 'Uff da!'" - Odd Lovoll [F85]

Norwegian 'Uff da' is translated into 'oo', 'ugh', 'oh dear', and 'oof' too. According to Einar Haugen's Norwegian-American dictionary it expresses unpleasant feelings, for example annoyance, uneasiness, irritation, stress and aversion.


Lutefisk is dried cod that has been soaked in a water and lye solution before it's made edible. The word 'lutefisk' is from Norwegian: from 'lute' to wash in lye solution + 'fisk', which means fish.

It is boiled or baked and served with butter and salt and pepper. It is traditionly served in the United States for Thanksgiving and Christmas and avoided the rest of the year. Maybe lutefisk meals require lots of repetitions in order to be appreciated . . . an acquired taste. In the meantime . . .:

In the social field

Most (ca 90%) of the 4,5 millions Americans of Norwegian stock, are third generation.

In Starbuck i Minnesota the people have erected a monument over the biggest lefse in the world.

Lutefisk eating competition is a fact.

In Dovre, Minnesota, they arrange "Uff Da" days.

In Vestby in Minnesota they celebrate the 17th of May for three days, Odd Lovoll informs.

Norskies (ie, Norwegian-Americans) are reasonably proud of their heritage. It's a firm and up to rock solid pride that can withstand little funnies about fabled "dumb Norwegians", backed up by a love for jokes too.

Norwegian immigrants settled near one another in farm land in the Midwest and sought shelter in churches and certain events to socialize, wear neat woolen jackets and sweaters, eat strange food and tell jokes. And thus the charming series of "Norwegian Jokes" began to grow.

The American Lutheran Churches were made up of two basic groups, Germans and Scandinavians. Germans brought more than frankfurters and hamburgers, Scandinavians brought coffee and a vivid sense of humour.

There is lefse, lutefisk, the expression "Uff da", and "traditionally broken language" with 'w' changed to 'v', 'th' to 't' or 'd', and 'j' to 'y'. Thus: 've' for we, 'tink' for think, 'dat' for that, and 'yust' for just, and so on.

Also, Norwegian-Americans can still celebrate the Norwegian Constitution Day, which is the 17th of May. They also take much pride in outstanding Norwegians and Norwegian traditional things, works, and items, and the Viking discovery of an already peopled America about 500 years before Columbus -

These are some of the main cultural tokens of Norwegian Americans today.

The US Census 2000 estimate is that there are 4,547,291 - between 4,312,938 and 4,781,644 - million citizens of Norwegian descent in the USA. [F74]

And in Norway there were 4,503,000 residents on January 1, 2001. [F75]


There is ample truth in the proverb: "A little nonsense now and then is relished by the best of men." Compare a saying by the top physicist Werner Heisenberg: "There are things that are so serious that you can only joke about them."

IF YOU ARE extroverting well enough and in fit, good ways, you can make yourself understood pretty well, words or not.

If your name (and integrity) is worth a hundred thousand dollars to yourself, its value might increase handsomely too in time. It happens to some. ◊

FROM then on others may carry your luggage too.

Then you finalise some of your sweet attainments, also knowing what to do and not to do in a delicate swimming-pool, preferably your own garden pool, a good sign of status it could be. ◊

THEN YOU know the value of being one of an influential insider group, perhaps, and also a US citizen.

Most Norwegian-Americans are middle class. ◊


MOTHER WRITING TO SON: On Monday it was so windy, one of our chickens laid the same egg four times. [See Rsn 7-8]

It reminds of something by Ivar Grimstad from a windy west coast island in Sunnmøre county in Norway: "On the most quiet day the wind blew all the hens of Sunnes-Anders to sea." [Rei 76]

Ole and Lena Jokes, Norwegian-American humour,  Literature  

Ams: Atkinson, Richard, et al. Introduction to Psychology. 9th ed. San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1987.

Ap: Mieder, Wolfgang (main ed.), Stewart A. Kingsbury, and Kelsie E. Harder: A Dictionary of American Proverbs. (Paperback) New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Aph: Pancake, Marcia, ed. A Prairie Home Commonplace Book: 25 Years on the Air with Garrison Keillor. St Paul: HighBridge, 1999.

Hp: Rosendahl, Peter J. Han Ola og Han Per. A Norwegian-American Comic Strip. En norsk-amerikansk tegneserie, edited by Joan N. Buckley and Einar Haugen. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1984 (Original printed in the Decorah-Posten).

Lwd: Keillor, Garrison. Lake Wobegone Days. London: Faber and Faber, 1986.

Mop: Rosendahl, Peter J. More han Ola og han Per. A Norwegian-American Comic Strip. En norsk-amerikansk tegneserie. Edited by Joan N. Buckley and Einar Haugen. Bilingual Edition. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1988.

Of: Fuller, Edmund. 2500 Anecdotes for All Occasions. New York: Wings, 1970.

Pna: Lovoll, Odd S. The Promise Fulfilled: A Portrait of Norwegian Americans Today. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998.

Rei: Grimstad, Ivar. Reven bak ´┐Żyret ("The Fox Behind the Ear" ie., Up to some Trick). Oslo: Det Norske Samlaget, 1983.

Rsn: Stangland, R. C. Red Stangland's Norwegian Home Companion. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993.

The list of links was first set up in early 2001. Many of the original links on this page are defunct by now. The notes present most of them still, in case you want to go further with any of them. If you should do, it might help somewhat to search the first parts of a link if it does not work, ending your entry with com or org, for example. Internet Archive's Wayback Machine can help out at times too.

F74: C2SS_EST_G00_QT02&_lang=en"

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