Swedish expressions: to shit in the blue cupboard

In Swedish, when you have landed yourself in trouble, or made a fool of yourself, you can use the delightful expression ‘shit in the blue cupboard’.

Example: ‘oh no, Edward really has shit in the blue cupboard now’.

So where does this originate? After some exploration, I have discovered what is recognised as the most likely explanation.

Centuries ago in Sweden, furniture was painted red and okra as this colour was cheap and easy to produce. Around the 1800’s new production methods enabled the production of blue paint – Berlin blue – and this was more expensive and seen as more exclusive. Consequently, people used this colour to paint the cupboard where they kept their finer pieces of porcelain, silver and linens.

In these times, the population used potties to go to the toilet in. Putting the potty into the blue cupboard, amongst the finer articles, was seen as a really stupid thing to do. And so the expression developed in relation to foolish acts.

Swedish expressions: Bang on the beetroot

There’s an expression in Swedish that I’ve often wondered about where it comes from. The expression – ‘pang på rödbetan‘ – bang on the beetroot. It’s a weird idiomatic expression that in its earlier meaning, referred to getting straight down to penetrative sex without any foreplay. However, today it is used to describe any situation in which we get straight down to it, for example in a meeting, in a discussion, in a conflict.

The ‘pang på’ is easy to understand as it means straight forward or slap-bang. But where does the beetroot come from?

Well, according to a common theory, it originated from the word ‘robota’ in Polish. This word came with temporary labourers to southern Sweden in the 1800’s and was Swedified by the locals. The expression ‘pang på rödbeta’ was used in Sweden’s southern Skåne region already in the 1900’s. So what does the word ‘robota’ mean? Well, it is defined as hard work, repetitive work and routine work.

So ‘pang på robata’ – getting straight down to hard work.

Interestingly, the word ‘robata’ is also the origin of the word ‘robot’ – something that does repetitive, routine work.

15 Swedish words for getting married

With the UK, and probably the USA, in a Royal wedding frenzy at the moment, it made me think about Swedish words for getting married. In English, we have for example ‘tie the knot’, ‘take the leap’ and ‘get hitched’, so I did some research. And I found the following formal, and less formal expressions for getting wed.

  1. gifta sig – to get married
  2. ingå äktenskap – to enter into marriage
  3. äkta – to wed
  4. ingå giftermål – to enter into marriage
  5. Gå träda i brudstol – ‘step onto the bridal chair’ (tradition from the 1600’s)
  6. Ingå förmälning – enter into marriage
  7. Gå brud – ‘go bride’
  8. Vigas – get married
  9. Föra till altaret – lead to the alter
  10. Knyta hymens band – tie the wedding band
  11. Bygga hjonelag – ‘build a marriage’
  12. Slå sina påsar ihop – ‘join your bags’
  13. Förena sina öden – unite your destinies
  14. Gänga sig – get married
  15. Stadga sig – settle down

Interestingly, the most used word for married in Swedish is the same as the word for poison – ‘gift’!

Wondering about Sweden in the middle of the night

It’s 4am and I can’t sleep. One of those nights with a million thoughts churning around in my mind. Outside, the city of Stockholm is quiet. Daylight is starting to slowly break. As I lie here, a question about Sweden pops into my head. Something I’ve never thought of before.

Where does the English name ‘Sweden’ come from?

I should be sleeping, but I decide to google for the answer and I am catapulted into the world of historical research, language theory and ethno-cultural writing. And now I have the explanation and hopefully I can sleep.

Would you like to know? Here’s what I found:

The English name for Sweden was loaned from Dutch in the 17th century to refer to Sweden as an emerging power. Before Sweden’s imperial expansion, Early Modern English used Swedeland.

The Old English name of Sweden was Sweoland or Sweorice, land or realm of the Sweonas – the Germanic tribes of the Sviar. The name of the Sviar itself is derived from a proto-Norse Swihoniz, presumably a self-designation containing the Germanic reflexive ‘swe’ – one’s own, self”.

The modern English name Sweden

was loaned from Dutch. It is based on Zweden, the Dutch name of Sweden, and in origin the dative plural of Zwede. It has been in use in English from about 1600, first recorded in Scottish Swethin, Swadne.

So there you go. Perhaps I can now zleep. Zzzzzzz.

21 sexy Swedish words

There’s one stereotype of Swedes that seems like it will never go away – the stereotype that Swedes are sexually liberated. This impression started after the wave of Swedish films that came out in the 1960’s and which were considered erotic by the rest of the world. Equal gender rights, contraception, abortion rights and a relaxed attitude to nudity have reinforced this stereotype. Perpetuating it further over the decades is the regular supply of seductive and physically attractive Swedes in the media – Britt Ekland, Ulrika Jonsson, Anita Ekberg, Maud Adams, Dolph Lundgren, Victoria Silvstedt, Alexander Skarsgård to name a few.

I don’t know if Swedes are more sexually emancipated than other nations or if they indeed have more sex than anybody else.

One thing is for certain though, they do have lot of words and phrases for the sexual act. So, if they’re not doing it – they’re certainly talking about it!

Here are 21 words and phrases to expand your vocabulary. Any others you can think of?

  1. sex
  2. knulla
  3. göka
  4. ligga
  5. älskog
  6. nyp
  7. skjut
  8. samlag
  9. skaka lakan – ‘shake the sheets’
  10. pippa
  11. nuppa
  12. banka bäver
  13. doppa
  14. sätta på
  15. gömma korven – ‘hide the sausage’
  16. älska
  17. nuppilura
  18. pöka
  19. rajtan-tajtan
  20. fjuppa
  21. gänga

50 words for snow!

Last year, I started a list of Swedish words for snow and lost energy at 25. This year, as the snow tanks down outside and the cities are hit with ‘snow chaos’, I decided to expand the list from 25 to 50!

Not surprisingly when living in a country where it snows a lot, people start to see differences and nuances in the type of snow, whereas in English the word might just be an unsatisfactory ‘snow’. The Swedish language makes it easy to join words together to describe these nuances.

Here is a list of 50 Swedish words related to snow.

1) Blötsnö – wet, slushy snow
2) Drivsnö – snow that is blown into troublesome snow drifts
3) Aprilsnö – snow in April, according to suspicion signifies plenty of food for the coming season
4) Hårdsnö – compacted hard snow
5) Konstsnö – artificial snow
6) Kramsnö – squeezy snow, perfect for making snowballs
7) Julesnö – snow at Christmas
8) Klabbsnö – wet, warm snow for building snowmen
9) Kolsyresnö – frozen carbondioxide
10) Kornsnö – small white snow breadcrumbs
11) Lappvante – thick, falling snow
12) Lössnö – snow that can loosen and be dangerous
13) Majsnö – surprising and unwelcome snow in May
14) Modd – snow that has partly melted due to salt
15) Natursnö – real snow (as opposed to artificial)
16) Nysnö – fresh snow, crisp and white
17) Pudersnö – powder snow
18) Rekordsnö – an unusual amount of snow, breaking previous snow records
19) Slask – slushy snow mixed with rain and dirt on the ground
20) Snö – snow
21) Snöblandat regn – snow mixed with rain
22) Muohta – the Sami word for snow (it is said the Sami actually have 200 words for snow!)
23) Snörök – faint particles of snow that look like smoke
24) Yrsnö – snow being whipped around by the wind in all directions
25) Åsksnö – snow that pours down during a thunder storm

26) Snökanon – a sudden blast of snow that suddenly hits a place, and feels like snow has been dumped on you

27) Jungfrusnö – virgin snow

28) Snösmocka – a huge amount of snow

29) Snötäcke – snow on the ground

30) Sjösnö – snow over the sea that can roll in over land

31) Snöfall – snow in the air

32) Flingsnö – snow with larger crystals

33) Skarsnö – a crispy surface on a blanket of snow

34) Packsnö – thickly packed snow

35) Pärlsnö – snow like small pearls that hurts when it hits your face

36) Snöglopp – wet snow mixed with rain

37) Spårsnö – snow that allows footprints to be formed

38) Fjöcksnö – a light, fluffy snow

39) Flister – snow the consistency of salt that stings the face when it falls

40) Flaksnö – a sheet of snow

41) Upplega – snow on the upper side of a tree branch

42) Firn – liquid-like snow that can initiate an avalanche

43) Fimmel – sandy snow that falls at low temperatures

44) Själja – a thin layer of ice on top of the snow that resembles glass

45) Knarrsnö – crispy snow that creaks when you walk on it

46) Snöfyk – wet snow

47) Torrsnö – dry snow

48) Månsilver – a poetic word to describe the dusting of snow

49) Snöis – snow on cold water that forms an icy solid surface

50) Stöp – a mixture of snow and ice resembling porridge that forms on top of cold water

Swedish words for poo


In a restaurant in Stockholm last night, I happened to use the word ‘klutt’ to describe a small dollop of food. My dinner companions did a double take and asked me to repeat what I said. ‘En klutt’ I said. They looked at each other and burst into laughter. You see, a ‘klutt’ does describe a small dollop. But not food. It’s a small dollop of poo. Sometimes, speaking a foreign language just ends up going so wrong!
This led to a conversation on the different Swedish words for poo. I made a mental note of them, so I could share them with you. I also googled some other words. Here they are. Enjoy!

  • Bajs – poo
  • Bajskorv – poo sausage (a turd)
  • Klutt – a small dollop of poo
  • Skit – shit
  • Blaffa – a huge mound of poo
  • Lort – piece of poo, sometimes dried out
  • Avföring – defecation
  • Exkrement – excrement
  • Mocka – big pile of poo, often from cattle
  • Rövgröt – poo with the consistency of porridge
  • Lös avföring – diarrhea
  • Racerbajs – diarrhea that requires running to the toilet
  • Sprutlack – explosive poo that covers a large surface

Any other words I’m missing that just have to be on this list?