Swedish expression: ’There is no cow on the ice’.

With all the open air ice skating going on at the moment, I am reminded of the Swedish expression ‘Det är ingen ko på isen’ or ’there’s no cow on the ice’. This expression is used to mean there is ‘ no need for worry’ or ‘don’t be concerned’. So, where does the expression originate?

Well, like many Swedish expressions, this one also has a rural origin. In the old days, farmers that had no running water would take their cows down to the lake to drink. As long as the cows stayed on land, and didn’t venture onto the frozen waters, there was no risk of them falling through the ice and drowning. In fact, the expression is an abbreviation of the longer saying ‘there’s no cow on the ice as long as their rear end is on land’. (Det är ingen ko på isen så länge stjärten är i land.) As long as they had a firm footing, they could rescue themselves if the ice broke around the periphery of the lake.

So it would seem that the original meaning of the saying might have been ‘there is no need for worry as long as you take precautions.’

Swedish expression: ’There is no cow on the ice’.

With all the open air ice skating going on at the moment, I am reminded of the Swedish expression ‘Det är ingen ko på isen’ or ’there’s no cow on the ice’. This expression is used to mean there is ‘ no need for worry’ or ‘don’t be concerned’. So, where does the expression originate?

Well, like many Swedish expressions, this one also has a rural origin. In the old days, farmers that had no running water would take their cows down to the lake to drink. As long as the cows stayed on land, and didn’t venture onto the frozen waters, there was no risk of them falling through the ice and drowning. In fact, the expression is an abbreviation of the longer saying ‘there’s no cow on the ice as long as their rear end is on land’. (Det är ingen ko på isen så länge stjärten är i land.) As long as they had a firm footing, they could rescue themselves if the ice broke around the periphery of the lake.

Confusing Swedish greetings of the festive season

It’s that time of year when people greet each other with more than a simple ‘Hej’ (hello), or ‘tjena’ (hi). There are various ways to do it, depending on the day, and it is a bit confusing for the uninitiated.

The last time you see somebody before Christmas, you say ‘God Jul’ (Merry Christmas). This is assuming Christmas is close of course, and does not apply if the last time you see somebody is October. ‘God Jul’ continues through Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Around Boxing Day, the greeting changes to ‘God Fortsättning’ (Good Continuation).

Then, around Dec 30/31, ish, it changes to ‘Gott Slut’ (Good Ending) before changing to ‘Gott Nytt År’ (Happy New Year) at the strike of midnight on Jan 1st.

’God Fortsättning’ (Good Continuation) takes over again around Jan 2 and then fizzles out after two weeks. The absolute final date for any form of festive greeting is Jan 13th. This day is called ‘Tjugondag Knut’ and is when Christmas is over in Sweden and the Christmas tree and decorations are traditionally thrown out. After that, it’s back to ’Hej’ again.

So as today is Dec 27, I’d like to wish you all a ‘God Fortsättning’.

Swedish nicknames – male or female?

In English, nicknames for men are often abbreviations of their name. Robert becomes Bob, Richard becomes Dick, Andrew becomes Andy. In Swedish, it’s not so. Usually, the nicknames get a bit longer and are signified by an ending that has a double consonant and ‘e’.

If you hear a Swedish name ending in double consonant and ‘e’, it is almost always a male name. The ‘e’ is pronounced ‘eh’. Jan becomes Janne, Dan is Danne, Leif is Leffe. Others are Olle, Beppe, Kalle, Chrille and Fredde. Some female nicknames ending with ‘e’ are Madde (Madeleine), and Mirre (Mariana), but female nicknames with double consonant and ‘e’ are quite unusual.

Names ending with ‘a’ are usually female names – Mia, Moa, Nadja and Ebba. If you hear a name ending in ‘a’ it is almost always a female name. There are a few male names, such as Gösta, Ola, Noa and Joshua but it is overwhelmingly female names that end with ‘a’.

Nicknames for women usually get shorter and often have ‘an’ on the end. Elisabeth becomes Bettan, Birgitta is Gittan, Therese becomes Tessan, Mikaela is Mickan.

So, how many men and how many women are in the following example?

I saw Nisse, Tobbe, Lottan and Nillan yesterday. They were sitting with Bosse, Kjelle and Affe. I’m not sure where Maggan, Nettan or Pelle were.

Swedish must-reads 9: ‘Easy Money’

In ten posts, I am recommending good Swedish reads to enjoy during the dark days and pandemic lock down. This is the ninth one – ‘Easy Money’ – written in 2006 by Jens Lapidus.

This book takes us into the brutal, criminal underworld of Stockholm. A thriller, the story follows the destinies of a group of young men all trying to get filthy rich, but paying a heavy price along the way. Jens Lapidus has written several books on the same theme and several have been made into movies.

Swedish must reads 8: ’The People of Hemsö’

In ten posts, I am recommending great Swedish reads to enjoy during the dark days. This is the eighth one – ‘The People of Hemsö’ – written in 1887 by legendary Swedish author August Strindberg.

Carlsson is on his way to the island of Hemsö in the Stockholm archipelago to work at widow Flod’s farm. With Flod’s husband dead, the farm is falling part. Drama ensues. A classic tale of greed, jealousy, love, lust and lies.

Swedish must reads 7: ’Popular Music from Vittula’

Over 10 posts, I will give you a recommendation of a Swedish book, translated into English, that is well worth a read. The sixth recommendation is ’Popular Music from Vittula’ from 2000, written by Mikael Niemi.

This brilliant book is set in the very north of Sweden during the 60’s and 70’s and is a young boy’s coming of age story. Based on the author’s own childhood, we get to experience a distant time in a remote region of Sweden influenced by communism, alcoholism, machoism, and rock and roll.

Swedish must reads 6: ‘The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.’

Over 10 posts, I will give you a recommendation of a Swedish book, translated into English, that is well worth a read. The sixth recommendation is ’The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared’ from 2009, written by Jonas Jonasson.

The book follows Allan Karlsson who escapes his old people’s home on his 100th birthday, and embarks on a remarkable journey through Sweden, with the police and bad guys hot in his heels. It is a funny book full of historical reference. It was made into a film in 2013. Jonas Jonasson also wrote ‘The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden’ which is also well worth a read.

Swedish must reads 5: ‘Hanna’s Daughters’.

As the autumn darkness envelops us, what better than snuggling under a blanket with a good book? Over 10 posts, I will give you a recommendation of a Swedish book, translated into English, that is well worth a read. The fifth recommendation is ’Hanna’s Daughters’ from 1994, written by Marianne Fredriksson.

Set against the majestic isolation of Scandinavian lakes and mountains, this is a story of three generations of women from the same family. It is a moving testament of a time forgotten and an epic romance in every sense of the word. It also reflects Swedish society and a journey from poverty to prosperity.

Swedish must reads 4: ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’

As the autumn darkness envelops us, what better than snuggling under a blanket with a good book? Over 10 posts, I will give you a recommendation of a Swedish book, translated into English, that is well worth a read. The fourth recommendation is ’The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ from 2005.

The first book in the Millenium series by Stieg Larsson is called ‘Men who hate women’ in Swedish. It is a psychological thriller that follows journalist Mikael Blomqvist and brilliant but deeply troubled hacker Lisbeth Salander. A real turn-pager, the book was an enormous success when it was posthumously published. It has been turned into a Swedish film featuring Noomi Rapace, and a Hollywood film, starring amongst others Daniel Craig.