My last post on Swedish words that make me giggle was such a hit that I thought I’d share some more. Thanks already to all the readers who shared some of their favorite Swedish words as well as to those who offered feedback and criticism of my interpretations. If you haven’t read my last post, check it out here, and make sure to read the comments as well! Lots of people chimed in with further suggestions.
My Swedish… *sigh*. It’s a work in progress.
Without further ado, 25 more Swedish words and phrases that give me the LOLZ.
Bakfylla/bakis: Slang for hungover. The first time I heard this, I thought people were talking about baked goods (like bakelse), which I really wanted because, well, you know. I was very disappointed to find out that it was just referring to the drunkenness coming “back.”
Grönsaker, jordgubbar: Vegetables, or “grönsaker,” are nothing but “green things,” if you translate it literally. Similarly, the word “jordgubbar,” or strawberries, comes from the word “jord,” which means dirt/earth/ground, and “gubben,” which is an affectionate name that means old man. Taken together, it’s like “little old earth men.” Love it!
Snuvig: You have a cold and you’re all snuffly. Sniff. Sniffff. Sniffffffff. You can tell already that the old man sitting across from you on the train wants to murder you because you don’t have a tissue. Sorry, old man, can’t help it, I’m snoooo-vig. Might I add that snuvig is way cuter than “congested.”
Bajskorv: “Poop sausage.” It’s perfection. I was home in the United States for five weeks last summer, and I tried so hard to teach my dad this one word. Now Dad, say with me: bajskorv! It didn’t stick. Sadness.
Sitta i knäet: We say, “You can sit on my lap” if there aren’t enough chairs to go around. Swedes say, “You can sit in my knee.” Of course, darling. Of course.
Sambovikt: Ugh. This word describes the weight you gain when you’re in one of those comfortable, long-term relationships (specifically, when you live with your significant other). Enough said.
Skvallercentral: There’s always that one person whose full time job seems to be acting as a gossipmonger. That person is, no bones about it, the skvallercentral, or gossip central!
Öronsnibb: I love this word both because of what it is and how it sounds. Your öronsnibb is your ear lobe. You know, the part of the ear you might just want to nibble on every now and then. Mmm. The sensual öronsnibb. Nibble, nibble.
För allt smör i Småland: There are things I would never do, ever, not in a million years, not even for all the butter in Småland. Uhh… did I just say that? Why would I want all the butter in Småland anyway? In any case, when you really wouldn’t do something even for a substantial and desirable reward, you can use the expression, “I wouldn’t do it for all the butter in Småland.”
Levande ljus: I get a kick out of this just because it’s so literal. By itself, ljus is the word for “light.” Levande ljus is, however, “living light.” A living light is, of course, a candle.
Is i magen: To me, someone who has ice in the stomach sounds like they’re nervous or sick, but to a Swede, someone who has ice in the stomach is a cool customer. This person is a good investor, a good getaway driver, a good poker player: someone who doesn’t panic when the you-know-what hits the fan.
Smaken är som baken—delad: The first time I heard this, I nearly died laughing. You know when people say things like, “Oh, it’s a matter of taste…” or “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…”? Well, in Sweden, you can say that, or you can say, “Taste is like a butt—divided.” I kid you not.
Att köpa grisen i sacken: To buy the pig in the sack is to buy something sight unseen—never a good idea. Strangely enough, I first learned this phrase when discussing attitudes towards a couple living together before marriage. My Swedish counterpart would never get married before living together with the woman in question first—otherwise, you would have no idea what you’re getting into! Much better than the rather crude English expression for the opposite point of view—“Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”
Tvättbjörn: Att tvätta means “to clean” and a björn is a bear. Put them together and what do you get? A raccoon, of course. Tvättbjörn (“clean bear”? “cleaning bear”?) is a raccoon.
Färgglad: The Swedish aesthetic tends to favor neutral colors like black, grey, and white, so after awhile, you get the feeling that wearing too much color or decorating your house with bold accents is rather loud and showy. That’s when the word färgglad comes to the rescue! It literally means color-happy, and you can use it to describe the use of exciting colors to make your outfit more fun or to liven up an otherwise-staid living room.
Brun som en pepparkaka: Brown as a gingerbread cookie! This phrase is definitely in the running for the “cutest expression ever.” You can use this expression to describe someone who’s tan. Just like my dad used to call me his little brownberry after a whole summer of playing outdoors, you might tell the neighbors’ kids that they’re as brown as gingerbread cookies after a holiday vacation to Thailand! Love it.
Het på gröten: I love this expression. You know when a big pan of brownies is fresh out of the oven and you know you should wait for them to cool down a little bit but you just can’t wait for them to cool down because you’re too excited and eager to get a taste of the chocolatey deliciousness?! That person might be described as het på gröten—hot on the porridge—because porridge is (obviously) so delicious that you just can’t wait to get a bite, even if it’s hot and could burn your mouth.
Klart som korvspad, lugn som en filbunke: Both of these are non-sarcastic expressions: clear as the water you cook sausage in, calm as the giant bowl you cultivate yogurt* in. Yes, I understand the instructions you gave me, clear as the water you cook sausage in. No, I’m not upset, I’m as calm as the giant bowl you cultivate yogurt in.
*For all those language pedants out there, yes, I know fil is different from yogurt—it’s a kind of sour version. The idea is the same, though.
Besserwisser: A Swedish know-it-all! I’ve never heard this word in conversation, but it exists, and that’s good enough for me, you besserwisser, you.
Blixt och dunder: “Thunder and lightning” becomes “lighting and thunder” in Swedish, with blixt sounding all fast and lightning-like and dunder sounding big, loud, and stupid, like Michael Scott at Dunder Mifflin in The Office. If you ask me, someone should make a blixt and dunder power drink. It would be like all the speed of blixt with the power and brute force of dunder. It would definitely be a hit.
Fingertoppskänsla: I’ve heard this one quite a bit in my Business English classes to describe people who are really skilled at something. Fingertoppskänsla translates to a “fingertips feeling,” but more broadly, it refers to someone having the ability to sort of intuit what needs to be done—making decisions according to the feeling in his/her fingertips. This could be in terms of baking, people skills, investing, or really anything.
Den är paj: In my book, this is the most incomprehensible phrase so far, but here goes. Literally, den är paj means “this is pie.” Colloquially, it also means “this is broken.” I don’t know what’s broken about pie, and from my pie-eating experiences in Sweden, I would say that they’re working quite well, but there you have it. Broken computer? Pie. Broken phone? Pie. Broken door? Pie.
As always, leave your questions, comments, suggestions, and corrections below!