An ironic Swedish election error!

In Sweden there is a General Election in less than a month, and the parties are papering the towns with their posters and their messages.

One party, the Liberals, made a hilarious error on one of their posters. The Liberals are for obligatory Swedish language tests as part of the integration process for foreigners into Sweden. Ironically, they released a poster with incorrect Swedish on it.

The poster in question reads ‘Mot extremism’ and has the smiling face of their leader gleaming out. The problem is that they meant ‘Emot extremism’, which means ‘against extremism’. ‘Mot’ is the Swedish word for ‘towards’. So the poster reads ‘Towards extremism’.

Oh, the irony!

Swedish expressions – take it piano

If a Swede says to you ‘ta det piano’ – take it piano – what they mean is take it easy, go slow often to avoid any mistakes. They can also say ‘it’s piano’ which means everything is cool, calm, ok.

Researching the origin of this expression led me, not surprisingly, to the world of music.

The word ‘piano’ has two meanings – firstly the string instrument with its variety of keys.

Secondly, it is a musical term for ‘weak’ or ‘soft’. In sheet music, the letter ‘p’ indicates piano and tells the musician to play their instrument softly. Double ‘pp’ means pianissimo and indicates to play very softly.

The term ‘piano’ originates in Italian and has been in use in Sweden since the 1600’s.

Swedish expressions: to shit in the blue cupboard

In Swedish, when you have landed yourself in trouble, or made a fool of yourself, you can use the delightful expression ‘shit in the blue cupboard’.

Example: ‘oh no, Edward really has shit in the blue cupboard now’.

So where does this originate? After some exploration, I have discovered what is recognised as the most likely explanation.

Centuries ago in Sweden, furniture was painted red and okra as this colour was cheap and easy to produce. Around the 1800’s new production methods enabled the production of blue paint – Berlin blue – and this was more expensive and seen as more exclusive. Consequently, people used this colour to paint the cupboard where they kept their finer pieces of porcelain, silver and linens.

In these times, the population used potties to go to the toilet in. Putting the potty into the blue cupboard, amongst the finer articles, was seen as a really stupid thing to do. And so the expression developed in relation to foolish acts.

Sweden you are being manipulated

In the Second World War, one fear that the German soldiers had was being sent to the frontline in Russia which meant certain death. They feared this so much that they would be willing to do anything to avoid it. This fear has become the name of an influencing tactic known as the ‘Russian Front.’ It is a highly manipulative negative tactic that we see being used in Swedish politics today.

To apply the Russian Front tactic, we offer a person something that they will never choose but we dress it up so that it seems more real. We paint a picture of pain, then

offer them the alternative that we really want them to choose.

Example:

There is a job available in Sewage Maintenance, the last guy died. I do hear they’re looking for people in reception though. Should I recommend you?

The Russian Front is the application of a principle called ‘Hurt and Rescue’.

‘Hurting’ means making somebody feel pain of some kind, pointing out what is wrong, making them want to get away from something. ‘Rescuing’ means removing their hurt, saving them from their pains. It creates relief.

With this in mind, think now about what is currently going on in Swedish politics. The extreme right wing nazi party – the NMR – have been very vocal recently. They have been involved in homophobic, racist and sexist attacks. They have received a lot of media attention and harassed, threatened and film documented people from minority groups. The NMR are the Russian Front. They are here to ‘hurt’ us. In contrast to them, the other right wing party, the SD, look more acceptable, although they also have a racist and sexist agenda of hate. But compared to the hurt of the NMR, the SD can appear as the ‘rescue’.

This is very, very dangerous. It is extremely manipulative. It is a well orchestrated trap. It is very strategic, and well planned. Its intention is to force fearful voters into the hands of SD in September’s general election.

The key to not falling into this trap is to see it. To see it for what it is. The fear we are experiencing is not real. It is choreographed. The solution is not SD. Do not allow yourself to be manipulated. Do not vote out of the illusion of fear. This is a high stakes game, and we are pawns. But we do have the power, if we see through the manipulation tactics.

The Russian Front is not real.

SD is not the solution.

Please spread and share this message.

Swedish expressions: Bang on the beetroot

There’s an expression in Swedish that I’ve often wondered about where it comes from. The expression – ‘pang på rödbetan‘ – bang on the beetroot. It’s a weird idiomatic expression that in its earlier meaning, referred to getting straight down to penetrative sex without any foreplay. However, today it is used to describe any situation in which we get straight down to it, for example in a meeting, in a discussion, in a conflict.

The ‘pang på’ is easy to understand as it means straight forward or slap-bang. But where does the beetroot come from?

Well, according to a common theory, it originated from the word ‘robota’ in Polish. This word came with temporary labourers to southern Sweden in the 1800’s and was Swedified by the locals. The expression ‘pang på rödbeta’ was used in Sweden’s southern Skåne region already in the 1900’s. So what does the word ‘robota’ mean? Well, it is defined as hard work, repetitive work and routine work.

So ‘pang på robata’ – getting straight down to hard work.

Interestingly, the word ‘robata’ is also the origin of the word ‘robot’ – something that does repetitive, routine work.

My Sweden-England dilemma

So, yesterday Sweden and England both qualified for the quarter finals in the football World Cup. Now they will meet each other and only one of them can go on to the semis. I’m not much of a football fan, but I do feel that I’m caught in a dilemma. Who do I support – the birth country that raised me or my adopted home country? I am a citizen of both, so that’s not an argument to fall back on.

5 reasons why I should support Sweden:

  • There’s an election this year, and a lot of people are feeling negative, so a win for Sweden is a positive boost for the whole country
  • Zlatan’s not playing so this shows the arrogant SOB that the team is good without him
  • Sweden hasn’t got to the quarters since 1994, if I am correctly informed. So it’s about time. Also, they’ve never won the whole shebang
  • Sweden has semlor cream buns, Jansson’s temptation, mmmmarabou, fried Baltic herring, princesstårta, västerbotten cheese pie and Småland cheesecake
  • It’s good to show the world Sweden’s good at something else other than winning Eurovision

5 reasons why I should support England

  • England invented football. Kind of. Or at least were the first to officially organize it into clubs in the 1800’s.
  • With Brexit approaching, it’s good for England to beat the world
  • England haven’t won the World Cup since 1966, so it’s well overdue
  • England has Branston pickle, trifle, crumpets, fried breakfasts, PG Tips, sticky toffee pudding and cream eggs.
  • England show they’re good at something and not just at making bad choices (Theresa May, Boris Johnson, UKIP etc)

So what a dilemma! Who should I back?

Any thoughts from you would be most helpful. Give me some reasons to support Team Sweden or Team England! You have until Saturday!

Sweden’s political island week


Once a year, at the beginning of July, there is a politics week in Sweden. The week takes place in an open-air park called Almedalen on the Baltic island of Gotland, and attracts heavy media coverage. Every day of the politics week belongs to a specific party that has a seat in the parliament – there are 8 of them.

The Alemdalen politics week all started 40 years ago when legendary Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme spoke publicly. It was at the end of the 60s and the Social Democrats on the island took the initiative and asked Olof Palme to make a speech in Almedalen. Palme and his family had spent their summer holidays on the neighbouring island of Fårö for many years. The stage was a lorry platform at Kruttornet and there was an audience of a few hundred people.

Now Almedalen politics week attracts thousands of participants and is intended to involve the man on the street in politics and to protect the strong Swedish value of democracy. However, the concept of democracy has never been so strongly challenged as it is this year. Right wing, nationalist party Sweden Democrats are gaining in popularity and are now the second largest party according to the opinion polls. This is a party that has its roots in nazism, sits in the parliament, focuses on ‘Swedishness’ and, even today, categorizes people according to their ethnicity. Some of their representatives are simply racist.

Democracy is a double-edged sword. Giving an open platform to racist ideas is a difficult thing to stomach, but it does strongly reflect the Swedish belief in freedom of speech. We don’t all agree with each other, but we have to defend the right for each other to think differently – as long as we are not inciting violence.

If we don’t do that, what’s left? What kind of a society do we have then? I am sure it would be a society that we wouldn’t want to live in.

At Almedalen politics week, we meet each other in debate. And in debate and discussion, we influence each other and our environment. And it is then, and only then, we can possibly change our society.