Ask people to think about Sweden and invariably they will say IKEA. The massive flat-pack corporation has world dominance when it comes to home furnishings. However, in Germany, Swedish curtains are not necessary an attractive option.
To be ‘hinter schwedischen Gardinen’ (behind Swedish curtains) in colloquial German means to be in prison.
Not entirely sure of the reason but one theory is as follows:
German bars used to be made from strong Swedish steel, as they were particularly strong and escape-proof. When the bars formed a grille, they became the kind of ‘curtain’ that you don’t want to be behind!
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Unfortunately I can’t speak Spanish very well. However, I have heard a phrase in Spanish that is somewhat derogatory to the Swedes.
In Spanish there is a well-known expression ‘no te hagas el sueco‘ which means ‘Don’t act like you’re a Swede.’ A related expression is ‘hacerse el sueco‘ which means ‘to play Swedish’.
The expression apparently means ‘don’t pretend you don’t understand’ or ‘don’t act dumb’. It is often used when somebody is trying to get out of taking responsibility for something.
Clearly there’s an element of dishonesty underlying this expression and that’s not particularly favorable towards Swedes.
I wonder what has happened in Spanish history that was the catalyst for this well-known and well-used expression? I’m not playing dumb, I’m afraid I don’t know.
Oh my God! Am I pretending to be Swedish?!!
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Years ago I sang a solo at a concert. It was the first time I ever sang solo, and I was nervous. Thankfully I didn’t die and actually it went ok. After the show, a friend came up to me and said ‘har du fått blodad tand?’ – ‘have you got a bloody tooth?’
So, what does this expression mean? Well, it’s not ‘bloody’ in the sense of ‘damn’. It’s more in the sense of ‘covered in blood’.
To understand this, we need to go to the animal kingdom. Many animals are herbivores in the early stages of their lives. The saying refers to the moment when an animal eats a bloody prey for the first time. After that, all they want is meat and blood. They develop a taste for it and don’t want anything else.
During the Middle Ages the metaphor moved into the Swedish language to mean that somebody wants to do something more often after trying it once. They have been inspired often by a success and want to continue.
In English, we can say ‘he has tasted blood’. Another translation that closely matches the meaning would be ‘to have your appetite whetted’ for something (whetted is an old English word for sharpened).
So, have you got a bloody tooth for something? If so, what?
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I was just in my local supermarket doing a quick bit of food shopping. Although the place was relatively empty at that time of day, I noticed that a few of the aisles were the most popular. Throngs of people gathered in the TexMex aisle, the soft drinks aisle and the aisle displaying crisps.
Of course, I thought! It’s Friday! And in Sweden, that means Fredagsmys!
‘Fredagsmys’ is loosely translated as ‘Friday Cosying’, and it is a relatively modern ritual in Sweden established in the 90’s. Prevalent up and down the country, ‘fredagsmys’ is when friends and families gather together to mark the end of the working week. it’s mostly associated with families and children and traditions differ family to family. However, one common denominator seems to be that food should be easy and quick to make. In other words, Friday night is a huge night for tacos and pizza in Sweden.
Gathering around food for cosy family evenings has a long tradition in Sweden. In the 1800’s and 1900’s something called ‘Söndagsfrid’ (Sunday peace) was popular. Then in the 1970’s ‘kvällsgott’ (Evening Goodies) became a concept.
The concept ‘fredagsmys’ became popularised in a high-profile advertising campaign for crisps. With the perky slogan ”Now it’s the end of the week, it’s time for Friday cosying”, (really, it’s perky in Swedish), they captured the Swedish market and encouraged the consumer to devour potato chips on Friday nights. In 2006, the word ‘fredagsmys’ entered the Swedish dictionary.
So how does your Friday night look?
What kind of cosying are you planning?
One of the fun things about learning a foreign language are the words that are rude, or funny in your own language.
Swedish has a few of them: slut, kräpp, plopp, kock, spurt
But the funniest one is probably the most purile; it is the ever prevailing ‘fart’, especially when you see it on street signs. This is the word that has most visitors to Sweden holding their sides with laughter.
Even after all these years, I can still have a little giggle when I think about the word ‘fart’ and its various usages in Swedish. In Swedish, ‘fart’ can mean a lot of things such as speed, drive, route, pace, spirit, vivacity, rate. But it is when it is put together with another word that it becomes amusing. Childish, I know…but here we go…
- utfart – ‘out fart’ – exit from a building
- uppfart – ‘up fart’ – driveway
- infart – ‘in fart’ (sounds painful) – entrance
- avfart – ‘of fart’ – exit from a motorway
- framfart – ‘forward fart’ (quite an accomplishment) – progress
- fartkamera – ‘fart camera’ (didn’t know these existed) – speed camera
- kringfart – ‘circular fart’ (also sounds painful) – causeway
- fartfylld -‘full of fart’ (know a few people like that) – speedy
- krypfart – ‘crawl fart’ – crawl
- luftfart – ‘air fart’ (the worst) – air travel
- fartrand – ‘fart stripe’ – go faster stripe on a car
- maxfart -‘maximum fart’ – top speed
- farthållare – ‘fart holder’ (dangerous) – cruise control
- blixtfart – ‘flash fart’ – flash speed
- fjärrfart -‘distant fart’ – transocean traffic
- halvfart – ‘half fart’ – half speed
- snigelfart – ‘snail fart’ – snail speed
- förbifart – ‘passing fart’ – ring road
- fartgräns – ‘fart limit’ – speed limit
- marschfart – ‘marching fart’ (like a hit and run!) – cruise speed
- överljudsfart – ‘supersonic fart’ (impressive!) – supersonic speed
- fartblind – ‘fart blind’ (although deaf is probably preferable) – when you become desensitised to the speed you are driving and stop noticing it
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In Sweden, you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting somebody Finnish or of Finnish heritage. Almost everybody knows somebody with a Finnish connection. In fact, there are so many Finns living in Sweden that they have their own commemorative day. And today is that day.
Today, 24th February is ‘Sverigefinnarnas’ Day, (Sweden Finns Day) – the day that celebrates the roughly half million people who live in Sweden and have Finnish as their mother tongue.
So why are there so many Finns in Sweden?
There has been a long history of emigration between the two countries, especially in the border regions of the north. However, a larger emigration happened when 70,000 young Finnish children were evacuated to Sweden during WW2. 15,000 are believed to have stayed and an unknown number to have returned as adults.
Then, in the 1950s and 1960s the migration from Finland to Sweden was considerable, chiefly due to economic differences between the countries. Sweden had the industry, the jobs and the housing. This caused some alarm in Finland with most of the emigrants in their most productive age — although many of them returned to Finland in the following decades.
In the year 2000, the Sweden Finns were recognised as an official national minority group in Sweden. In fact, the Sweden Finns are the largest national minority group in Sweden. Other large minority groups come from former Yugoslavia, Irak, Syria and Poland – although these do not have official national minority group status.
In 2007, a flag was designed which combines the Swedish and the Finnish colours.
If you’re in Sweden today, you may well see this flag flying proudly around the country.
We’ve all been there. Those embarrassing moments when the belly rumbles and we have to race to the toilet to evacuate as quickly as possible. An all round unpleasant, and undignified, experience.
Well, February in Sweden is synonymous with sickness and right now there’s a stomach flu flying around the country. So last night at dinner, conversation moved onto sickness and landed on a colloquial Swedish word for diarrhoea.
The discussion was about where this word comes from. So, true to form, I researched it.
And I have the answer.
The word in question is the Swedish word ‘rännskita‘. One theory was that it originated from the word ‘takränna’ which is a gutter, and would reflect the speed at which the water runs down the drainpipe. But actually that’s not it.
The word is a combination of the old Swedish word ‘ränna’ which means ‘to run’ (often quickly) and the word ‘skita’ which means to shit. It’s directly translatable to the English ‘ to have the runs’.
Although it sounds like a new word, it actually entered the Swedish language in 1587! I guess it was a problem back then.
So there you go. Another fascinating foray into the Swedish language with ‘Watching the Swedes’.
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