Oh those healthy Swedes!

With all of us currently questioning our health statuses at the first sniffle, Swedish sickness words like ‘sjuk’, ‘dålig’ and ’krasslig’ abound. So, I thought I’d flip the perspective. How many ways in Swedish can you describe someone as being in good health? I found 20! Can you think of any more? Please let me know and I’ll add them to the list. Enjoy the positivity of the words below, and stay healthy!

Bra – Good/well

‘En sund själ i en sund kropp’ – ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’

Frisk – healthy

‘Frisk som en nötkärna’ – literally healthy as the core of a nut, equivalent to ’healthy as a horse’

Hurtig – spry

Hurtfrisk – hearty

I bra form – in good shape

Kraftfull – vigorous

Kry – well

Kärnfrisk – healthy to the core

Pigg – bright /fit

‘Pigg som en mört’ – literally fit as a roach, equivalent to ’fit as a fiddle’

Rosig – rosy

Sund – robust

Stark – strong

Stråla – glow

Vid hälsa – in good health

Vital – vital, full of life

Välmående – healthy

Vältränad – fit

I have been given a new one by Lukus: ‘ vid sunda vätskor’ – literally translates as ‘in healthy fluids’ – dating back to the time when medicine was based on the four humours (body fluids): blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. Yuck.

Some more to add from Mia – ’i topp form’ – in great shape and ‘tipp topp’ – ship shape. Then Mia adds ’mår fina fisken’. Literally this translates as ‘feeling pretty fishy’ but that would be the wrong meaning! It means ‘to feel super good!’

And Pelle suggested I add ‘finemang’ which means great/excellent!

Fredrik suggested ‘prima’ and ‘mår toppen’ – both words describe how you are feeling. Feeling great!

The Swedish ‘butt stick’

Watching the tv this evening, I learned a new word – ‘rövsticka’ – which translates as ‘butt stick’ or ‘ass stick’.

This butt stick is being sold by a supermarket owner in the north of Sweden. A butt stick is an alternative to toilet paper and is used to wipe the ass after doing your business in the toilet.

Apparently, it is an old invention that was used in Sweden before tissue paper was invented, which makes sense. It was an inventive way to maintain hygiene I guess, just like the Romans who used wool and natural sponges. And the Vikings, who used painful bones and shells. Apparently in the Middle Ages, people used grass and hay – and butt sticks made of wood.

According to the shop owner, several butt sticks have been purchased and, thankfully, they are not returnable!

Would you use a butt stick?

Useful Swedish to know during a pandemic

This is aimed at those of you who don’t speak Swedish and who’d like to understand some of the key Swedish words related to the pandemic – or ‘pandemin’.

Akuten – A&E, Emergency Room

Apotek – chemist or pharmacist

Hamstra – to hoard, to stockpile

Handsprit – hand sanitizer

Hemarbeta – work from home

Hosta – to cough

Influensa – the flu

Isolering – isolation

Karantän – quarantine

Kris – crisis

Luftburen – airborne

Läkemedel – medicine

Nysa – to sneeze

Permittera – to lay off temporarily, furlough

Prov – test

Smitta – contagion, to infect

Smittbärärbidrag – Social benefit for carriers

Stanna hemma – stay home

Stänga ned – to shut down

Toapapper – toilet paper

Torgskräck – agoraphobia

Tvätta händerna – wash your hands

Tvål – soap

Undantagstillstånd – National Emergency

Utegångsförbud – curfew

Please let me know if you’d like me to add any other important words to this list.

English Leap Day and Swedish ‘Skott’ Day

2020 is a leap year, and today 29 February is Leap Day. In Swedish, leap year is called ‘skottår’ and Leap Day is ’skottdag’.

So, why ‘skott’? And why indeed ‘leap’? Well, the English word refers to the fact that the extra day in February means we leap over a day for the rest of the year. For example, the 1st March would have been a Saturday, but because of the leap day, it is now a Sunday.

What about the Swedish word ‘skott’? Well, it has nothing to do with Scotland. Nor does it mean ‘leap.’ The word ‘skott’ originally means ‘inserted in between’. So ‘skottdag’ is literally an extra day inserted in between two other days.

An interesting fact, those born on 29 February are called leaplings in English, and there are about 4,000,000 of them in the world!

Swedish expressions about the forest

Did you know that 69% of Sweden is covered in forest? With this statistic in mind, it’s easy to understand the importance that the woods have in Swedish cultural history. The woods have supported, saved and scared Swedes for centuries. The woods have been associated with something remote, impenetrable and often mystical. In the non secular country that Sweden is, the woods also provide a ’Church’ and a source of spiritualism, meditation and reflection.

The forest has also given the Swedish language several expressions, words and sayings. Here are some:

Dra åt skogen’ – go to the forest – a polite way to tell somebody to fuck off

Skogstokig’ – forest crazy – a word to describe a person who is really angry

Det gick åt skogen’ – it went to the forest – a phrase that means something went wrong

Att lova guld och gröna skogar’ – to promise gold and green forests – an expression to mean that someone offers you wealth and happiness, but it is often overrated. Equivalent in English to ‘promise the moon’

Träskalle’ – wood head – an insult meaning someone is stupid

Träaktig’ – tree like – a description of someone as boring.

Barka åt skogen’ – going towards the forest – meaning it’s going to go badly

Can you think of any more?

Sweden’s romance with Germany

Sweden has many connections with Germany throughout its long history. As a nod to the growing German readership I have, I thought I would list a few of those connections.

German language influence

The Swedish language belongs to the North Germanic branch of the Germanic languages. Many words in Swedish are similar in German. I remember when I was on a trip to Hamburg, I could understand a lot of what was written in the German paper Der Spiegel. This was not because I speak any German, but because I speak Swedish. In fact the word ‘spiegel’, meaning mirror, is ‘spegel’ in Swedish. A friend of mine, originally from Rostock in Germany, learned Swedish very quickly. When I asked her how she had done it, she responded rather matter-of-factly that ‘Swedish is just German light’.

German merchants

In Stockholm’s Old Town there is an imposing church whose large Gothic spire dominates the skyline. This church is called ‘Tyska kyrkan’ – the German Church. During the 1500’s there were a lot of German merchants trading and living in Stockholm. In fact, they made up about half of the population. The King wanted to attract and keep as many Germans as possible, so he gave them attractive tax breaks and, in 1571, awarded them the right to start their own parish and place of worship. The church that we see today was finished in 1886, after restoration after a large fire. The German Church today holds services in German, and still serves Stockholm’s much smaller German population. Sweden today has still a lot of German merchants, in the form of large retail chains. Big players include the food chain Lidl, shoe shop Deichmann, home electronics retailer MediaMarkt and DIY store Bauhaus.

German Queens

Sweden’s current queen, Queen Silvia, originates from Heidelberg. Her German accent resonates clearly when she speaks Swedish. But she’s not the only connection the Swedish Royal House has with Germany. In fact, the King’s mother was also German – Princess Sibylla – from Gotha. And both his grandmothers. And, well, throughout history the Swedish Royal House has been peppered with German aristocracy and royalty. According to Wikipedia, 22 of Sweden’s monarchs were of German descent. So, one could probably say that the Swedish royals are more German than anything else.

German tourists

Sweden is an extremely popular destination for German tourists who are attracted by the forests, lakes, open spaces, cute red cottages and fresh air. German tourists spend approximately 3,000,000 hotel nights in Sweden according to the Swedish Tourism Institute. Sweden’s three main cities are popular destinations, as well as Skåne, which is the closest county to Germany. Due to the fame of writer Astrid Lindgren, her birthplace village of Vimmerby in Småland is also very well visited. Sweden’s attractiveness is also thanks to a long-running German tv show. Since 2003, the show ‘Inga Lindström’ has entertained Germans with an idyllic, romantic image of Sweden. The program is a series of stories set in Sweden, where the characters speak German, but have Swedish-sounding names, and the attractive Sweden that is depicted makes German tourists want to flock here in droves.

German sausages

Although food trucks are a standing feature in Sweden’s current street food culture, the original fast food place was, and is, the sausage kiosk. One can not underestimate how much Swedes love their hot dogs and they eat them late at night, for a quick lunch, at sport events, in cars, at weddings, barbecues, communal cleaning days, shopping excursions. You name it. The sausage is ever-present. Evidence exists that sausage-like foods were eaten by the Vikings, but it was in Frankfurt, Germany that the sausage was really developed as a snack. This food culture arrived in Sweden, via USA, in the 1800’s and has remained a firm favourite ever since. Even Sweden’s own patented sausage, the Falukorv, apparently came into existence by German immigrants training the Swedes in how to make them. Sweden’s leading hot dog brand is called Sibylla. Named after the current King’s German mother, this was said to be an honour and not born out of ridicule.

So, there you have it. Germany and Sweden have very close ties linguistically, socially, politically, in royalty, in business, in tourism and, even on the street corners.

Swedes and their dubious use of the English language

Swedes are generally good at English – but not always. Here are some funny examples people have shared with me:

A Swedish tour guide is on a study visit to an airport in the USA. Suddenly, he points up to the sky and says ‘oh look! A fish moose!’ (Seagull is ‘fiskmås’ in Swedish)

A Swedish visitor in the USA is impressed by the car he is travelling in and says ‘it must be nice to have a fart-controller in the car‘ (speed-control)

A Swedish woman wanted to explain to her English boyfriend why there were so many cars parked along the road side in a woodland area. ‘It’s bear-picking time’ she explained. (Berry)

On a sunny day in May, a conversation was overhead between a pilot and a Swedish air steward over Malmö airport. The pilot wondered what all the fields of yellow were. The steward replied ‘they’re rape fields‘. To which the pilot responded ‘oh you have special fields for that in Sweden?!‘ (it’s better to say rape seed).

A Swede and an Irishman met for the first time. The conversation went like this,

You’re not English are you?’

‘No I’m Irish’

‘Yes I could tell by your R’s’

The Irishman was confused as to how the Swede could tell this by looking at his backside. (Arse = backside in English)

A Swedish man stood at a hot dog stand in Trollhättan and was waiting for some new mashed potato to be made. Another customer arrived, who was not from Sweden. ‘You must wait for the moose’, the Swede informed him.

Two Swedish friends were drinking glögg at Skansen and they were approached by a group of tourists who wondered what they were drinking. ‘It’s warm red wine with Russians in’ said one of the Swedes. (Raisins would be the better word)

A Swedish tourist in a hotel was asked if everything was to their satisfaction. ‘It’s pretty fishy’ replied the tourist to the hotel representative’s confusion. (Pretty fishy means something is untrustworthy. The Swede wanted to say ‘fina fisken’ which means everything is really great).

And one that happened to me. When I was newish in Sweden and met my then mother in law, we were walking in Stockholm. She was telling me about the buildings in the city and she pointed at the city hall with its three crowns on the roof. ‘That’s the city hall’ she said, ‘that building with the three pricks in’. (Prick is dot in Sweden, but means penis in English).

Do you have any funny examples? Please share them with me!

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