Denmark and Sweden have fought lots of actual wars over the centuries, some of which were brutal and dragged on for years. Not many were as brief, bloodless or entertaining as a spat that erupted between the two countries this week.
The Internet was caught off guard when the Danes and Swedes abruptly started a Twitter war on Thursday, nailing one another with a wide-ranging barrage of cheeky, nationalist insults. They fought about moose, mountains, LEGOs and sperm banks, among other things, as the world watched in amusement and confusion.
Yet while Twitter wars so often devolve into angry melodramas, this one showed a more advanced way to argue in public. Granted, it's a good-natured feud between two Scandinavian allies, but it's also the continuation of a rivalry that used to be very serious and often violent. After centuries of fighting with weapons, Denmark and Sweden just reminded the world about the surprising power of wit.
If you're going to publicly bicker on Twitter — or anywhere, really — you might as well make it funny. Here are a few highlights from the 2016 Dano-Swedish Twitter War:
It didn't take long for the countries to lock horns over love and moose:
.@swedense it just wasn't accustomed to modern infrastructure from where it came— Denmark.dk (@denmarkdotdk) July 7, 2016
After moving past moose, they found a natural segue into fertility:
Some of the best barbs compared Swedish and Danish geological features, like this thread about the countries' respective mountains, beaches and islands:
Dear @denmarkdotdk how "high" is your highest peak? So cute you don't even have enough for a top 10 list. pic.twitter.com/uhGfzKQe8h
— Sweden.se (@swedense) July 7, 2016
Dear @swedense, while you're sitting on a hill top, we'll just go to one of our many beaches pic.twitter.com/mOdgEu3D4P
— Denmark.dk (@denmarkdotdk) July 7, 2016
Dear @denmarkdotdk keep your beaches while we go to one of our 267,570 islands. Welcome anytime! pic.twitter.com/mLZiMEgEvy
— Sweden.se (@swedense) July 7, 2016
The exchanges became pretty bizarre at times, featuring boasts about old amusement parks and disputes over who's more diplomatic:
Perhaps inevitably, LEGOs also got dragged into the fray:
As the back-and-forth intensified, some outside observers began to wonder if this kind of thing is normal for Nordic countries. Responding to one question about the spat, Sweden's Twitter account explained it's all just a "friendly rivalry":
It's all friendly rivalry :)— Sweden.se (@swedense) July 7, 2016
Plus, it's worth noting the two countries also found some areas where they agree:
just one of many things, Danes and Swedes have in common https://t.co/9yC2zfO4Yl— Denmark.dk (@denmarkdotdk) July 7, 2016
If you're wondering how all this got started, the social media manager for Sweden.se offers context in a post on LinkedIn. Managers of both countries' Twitter accounts — representing the Swedish Institute and the Danish Foreign Ministry — agreed to the feud on the morning of July 7, Ferencz Thuroczy writes, reframing their old rivalry as a jokey Twitter war to remind the Internet to take things less seriously:
"I wanted to do something drastic with our Twitter feed. I decided to have it out with Denmark. Why? Because the Internet needs a sense of humor and a bit of fun, at our and Denmark's expense. After firing off that first tweet, I got in touch with the Danes on a private channel and we agreed to storm ahead, without disclosing our battle plans. Getting connected is a must, to avoid causing a 'diplomatic incident.' Boy, did we go at it, and boy, was it fun!"
The plan worked, drawing widespread attention and even praise for its deft blend of rancor, civility and humor. And on top of showing how centuries-old animosity can evolve into healthy jousting, it also served a secondary purpose: free advertising.
Honey may attract more flies than vinegar, but as Sweden and Denmark have demonstrated, we don't always have to be completely sweet, sour or bitter. Sometimes, you attract the best kind of attention when you mix honey and vinegar together — with a sense of humor and a shot of aquavit, of course.