Why Norwegians say "Texas" when they mean "crazy"

It turns out that communities can come into contact in ways that are not actually physical. In the case of Norwegians’ use of Texas, the borrowing may not originate from physical contact, but through cultural aspiration. In fact, throughout much of Europe the image of the American Wild West appeals to a set of beliefs (perhaps stereotypical or false) about the apparent freedom and lawlessness in the West during the 19th century.

These enthusiastic ideas about American frontier life can be seen in places like Sweden’s Wild West theme parks. And Germany has been fascinated with cowboys and the American frontier from as early as the the 1890s, when Buffalo Bill Cody toured Germany. Twentieth century movies, novels and TV shows continue to promote myths of the Wild West, while prominently featuring Texas.

Ultimately, the Norwegian use of Texas makes sense because it follows some recognized linguistic principles: it indicates the narrowing of meaning over time, it reflects a change in meaning when applied to a new cultural context, and it represents a glamorized (if stereotypical) view of another culture.

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