Swedish expressions – to be a ‘seven sleeper’

I am what Swedes would call a ‘sjusovare’ – a seven sleeper. The opposite of the early bird, a seven sleeper loves to sleep late, lie in and definitely not get up early. The nearest expression in English is probably a ‘sleepyhead’.

Curious as I am, I checked into where the word ‘sjusovare’ comes from. It does not have an agricultural origin to do with sleeping past the hour of 7 o’clock. No, the expression has much more religious beginnings.

In 251 AD, the Roman Caesar Decius carried out a purge where he persecuted Christians. Seven young men were accused of following the religion, and asked to repent. They refused, and retreated to a cavern to pray. After a while they fell asleep. On hearing this, Decius ordered the mouth of the cave to be sealed off, entombing the men inside. Three hundred years later, a landowner opened the cave again and found the sleepers within. They awoke, thinking they had only slept one day. They awoke to a new political and religious landscape where Christianity was the norm and they were no longer persecuted. Basically, they slept until the danger was over.

These miraculous men were named the Seven Sleepers, which later became the Swedish noun a seven sleeper. Their legendary tomb can be visited today, just outside the Turkish town of Selcuk.

So I am a seven sleeper. But 300 years seems a bit extreme. 9.30 seems a more reasonable time to get up.

One thought on “Swedish expressions – to be a ‘seven sleeper’

  1. Wow, I’ve heard about the seven sleepers, but hadn’t heard the word sjusovare before, having been learning Swedish for about 12 years! :O I like it! Especially that I am a sjusovare myself.

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