It feels like it has rained for ever in Stockholm. We awaken to rain, we walk in the rain, we come home in the rain, and we go to bed to the sound of the rain.
I guess the wetness is positive as it is replenishing the water magazines that have dried out, and soaking the forest beds to extinguish any lingering embers from the forest fires.
But it is so boring and a bit depressing. In English, we have lots of words for rain, with some fun ones such as drizzle, mizzle, sleet, spit and ‘ache and pain’.
So I became curious about how many Swedish words there are. Here are 20 that I found:
- Regn – rain
- Duggregn – a light rain, spit
- Dusk – drizzle
- Snöblandad regn – rain mixed with snow, sleet
- Hällregn – heavy rain, pouring down
- Ösregn – torrential rain
- Skyfall – sudden heavy rain, a cloud burst
- Skur – shower
- Störtregn – heavy rain, a downpour
- Skval – constant, uninterrupted rain
- Sommarregn – light, summer rain
- Regnby – rain shower
- Slagregn – heavy rain, a deluge
- Glopp – rain with large snow flakes in
- Arlaregn – refreshing morning rain
- Strilregn – steady rain
- Nederbörd – precipitation
- Dagsregn – precipitation
- Regndroppe – rain drop
- Rotblöta – a large amount of rain, usually in the summer
So the next time, look out of the window and see what word best describes the rain outside. It might at least give you a few seconds of distraction in this November drudge.
Surprisingly there are 9 people in Sweden who have the same surname as me. I’m very curious to know who they are.
According to the Swedish Statistics Bureau, which surnames are then the most common in Sweden? Any guesses?
Here is the latest top 10 list from 2018:
Notice a pattern?! In fact, the first name that doesn’t end in the patronymic ‘son’ is the name Lindberg which lands in 17th position.
Interestingly there are a few more ‘sons’ after that and then Lindström, Lindqvist and Lindgren are the next ones. So ‘Lind’, which is a small tree, is also very common.
The first ‘non-Swedish’ name on the list is Ali, which lands in 44th position.
If you’re interesting in knowing about your name, go to scb and check it out under ‘namnstatistik’.
Most anthropologists agree that the origin of language is its social function. Language developed as a way of binding together people and cultures in order to better survive. And the words that helped people bond together were the positive words of acknowledgement and agreement, such as ‘sure’, ‘absolutely’ and ‘that’s right’.
These types of words go in and out of fashion of course. Sweden’s current popular one seems to be ‘men verkligen’.
What are some other ways to concur in Swedish?
- Jag instämmer
- Jag håller med
- Du har så rätt
Why does Swedish seem to have so many phrases of agreement? Is it these that have helped develop the neutral, respectful, non confrontational communication style we traditionally connect with Swedes?
As weird as this saying is, it’s quite a common one used by Swedes. Obviously describing a troublesome, embarrassing situation, it would equate in English to something like ‘to be caught with your hand in the cookie jar’ or ‘caught with your trousers down’. In other words, to find yourself in a difficult situation of your own making.
But where does the expression come from?
One common theory is that it is from a 1959 book called Bitter Pills. The Swedish translator translated the English ‘who will get hurt’ to ‘who will sit with their beard in the letterbox’. Rather an odd translation one might think but actually it was rather a clever one.
The translator based his expression on a nautical saying at that time – ‘to fasten with your beard in the block’. Apparently a block is a wheel that mooring lines run through on a boat. I guess it would be very unfortunate for a sailor to get their beard caught in it while wrestling with a wild boat. The theory is that the translator wanted to modernize the expression, and use a bit of humour. So block became letter box. The expression can also be ‘to fasten with your beard in the letter box’.
In an earlier post, I wrote how Swedish can sometimes be very clear. To the point of literalness. There are also cases where Swedish is very unclear, where you’re not quite sure what is being said, or referred to. Here are 10 very confusing Swedish words:
- Himmel – in Swedish this is the word for heaven and also for sky. So which is being referred to?
- Trappa – Swedish sometimes doesn’t distinguish between inside and outside. This is the word for stairs and also for steps. So, take the ‘trappa’ can be confusing.
- Tak – likewise, this is the word for roof and also ceiling. So, what does fixing the ‘tak’ actually refer to?
- Man – the word for man, is also the word for husband. Confusing…is he married or just a man?
- Ben – is the word for leg and also for bone. So if you break your ‘ben’, what have you broken?
- Kudde – in Swedish is the same word for pillow and for cushion. So, tidy up the ‘kudde’ means which ones exactly?
- Låna – the word for borrow, and also for lend. So what exactly do you want to do? Give – or take?
- Tidning – Swedish uses the same word to describe a newspaper and a magazine. So, pass me the ‘tidning’ means which one exactly?
- Lov – in Swedish the same word is used for permission, promise, duty and praise. It’s just all round confusing.
- Nöt – the most confusing of all. I know from my personal experience in a restaurant. This is the word for nut, and also for beef. So is the food vegetarian or not? Trust me, it’s an easy mistake to make.
Know any other confusing Swedish words? Please share!
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.
Swedish is quite a difficult language to learn, especially the pronunciation. However, there are moments when the Swedish language is ridiculously literal. And it is so literal that it is hilarious. Here are the top 15. Feel free to add any others that you can think of in the comments field.
- Sugrör – the Swedish word for straw – literally translates as ‘suck pipe’
- Grönsak – vegetable in Swedish is literally ‘green thing’
- Tunnelbana – the Swedish metro is literally ‘tunnel lane’
- Tvättbjörn – the Swedish word for raccoon translates at ‘wash bear’ (as it tends to wash its prey before eating it)
- Tidskrift – newspaper, literally ‘time writing’
- Sköldpadda – the Swedish word for tortoise is literally ‘shield frog’
- Studsmatta – Swedish word for trampoline is literally ‘bounce carpet’
- Flygplats – Swedish airport translates literally as ‘flight place’
- Vattenkokare – the Swedish word for kettle. Translated literally, it is ‘water boiler’
- Glasögon – the Swedish word for spectacles is ‘glass eyes’
- Rotsak- the Swedish word for root vegetable, translates as ‘root thing’
- Flodhäst – the Swedish word for hippopotamus, literally translates as ‘river horse’
- Järnväg – the Swedish word for railway translates as ‘iron road’
- Kylskåp – the Swedish word for fridge, translates as ‘chill cupboard’
- Finally, my favourite. The Swedish word for vacuum cleaner is dammsugare. Literally – ‘dust sucker’