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.

Swedish must reads 3 – ’City of my Dreams’

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 third recommendation is ’City of my Dreams’, written in 1960 by Per Anders Fogelström.

City of My Dreams is a classic Swedish novel that follows a group of working-class people in Stockholm between 1860 and 1880. It is the first novel in a series of five and gives a unique insight into the tough lives faced by people living in that era. A magnificent, gripping saga.

Swedish must reads 1 – ‘Let the Right One In’

Autumn has us firmly in its clutches. Today, the clocks go back and darkness envelops us. what better then, than snuggling under a blanket with a good book? Sweden’s literary scene is highly productive, from non-fiction to novels, detective stories to literary masterpieces. For the coming ten blogs, I will give you one recommendation of a Swedish book, translated into English, that is well worth a read. Out first – in honour of approaching Halloween – is Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist 2004.

In the dark winter of 1981 in the grey Stockholm suburb of Blackeberg, twelve year-old Oskar is being bullied. He develops a friendship with a young neighbour, Eli, who helps him fight back against his tormentors. But all is not what it seems because Eli is a vampire. As mysterious murders spread fear and confusion in the community, Oskar starts to suspect his neighbour’s dark secret.

The book was made into a film in 2008, which is also well worth a watch.

Swedish expression with no English equivalent?

Talking to friends last night the expression ‘en katt bland hermelinerna’ arose. This literally translates as ‘a cat among the ermines’, an ermine being a type of stoat or weasel.

The phrase originated in a couplet by Swedish performer Karl Gerhard in 1955. Karl Gerhard is one of Sweden’s historical entertainers who wrote songs and couplets as well as a large number of sketches, dialogues and monologues. During the Second World War, he wrote humorous pieces with strong anti-fascist statements criticising the Swedish government’s apathy towards Nazi Germany.

So, he coined the comical expression ‘en katt bland hermelinerna’. It’s not the same as our ‘cat amongst the pigeons’ which means somebody is causing chaos and panic. The expression refers to a person who has insinuated themselves into an environment where they do not belong, because they are not from the same social class. In other words, someone who isn’t fancy enough for the rest of the people in their company.

As far as I am aware, there is no expression for this in English. But I hope I’m wrong. Can any of you readers help me out here? Do you know of an English equivalent?