Today I had a bit of an adventure in Swedish. Now I am pretty much fluent. I can speak the language, I can understand the language. I can have a conversation with most people without them realizing I’m not Swedish. But sometimes it still just kind of trips me up. Of course, the English language does the same but anyway.
This afternoon I found myself having to leave a message as a job follow-up. And I hate leaving messages. I always feel like I am rambling on, even if I have kept it short and concise. I also have a habit of wishing people a good day, evening, lovely Thursday, wonderful weekend, something to that extent. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s that friendly Americanism coming out. But today it just kind of felt like it went wrong. And maybe it would have gone wrong in English too. But I was working with Swedish.
It’s Thursday. I know it is Thursday. And today when I left a message for someone, I was assuming that they knew I knew it was Thursday and would probably not get back to me until next Monday. However, one should never assume, because it makes an ass out of u and me. Cute huh?
And I assumed. At the end of the message, I said, “I hope you have a wonderful Friday and a fortsatt trevlig helg.” A nice weekend basically. Sometimes I’m a little slow. And as I hung up, I realized what I had just done. Because had I received a message like that, I would have thought that the person was under the impression that today was Friday. Not Thursday. And we all know its Thursday. Unless you are in Australia.
This led to that fleeting moment of wanting to call back and correct myself. Which quickly passed because I thought it necessary to retain some semblance of dignity and not dig myself a hole. So I kept my cell phone shut.
But as the day wore on I started thinking about the Swedish language. And various adventures in Swedish. Which led me to some glorious Swedish words. Now I am well aware that this happens in every language. It’s just a collection of words that literally translated to English have a somewhat different meaning.
Sometimes, the Swedes just keep it simple as evidenced by the first word on the list. Other times, they mean what they are supposed to mean but just make me laugh because of my English language background. And so without further ado, a collection of Swedish words that bring a smile to my face. Please add your own in the comments sections, because there are plenty I’ve forgotten.
Grönsaker – literally “green things,” actually “vegetables.”
Tandkött – literally “tooth meat,” actually “gums.”
Surströmming - literally “sour herring,” actually well… fermented herring, rumored to be edible.
Jordgubbar – literally “earth men,” actually “strawberries.”
Kofångare – literally “cow catcher,” actually “bumper.”
Sjukhus – literally “sick house,” actually “hospital.”
Slut – literally “finished,” actually “finished” (but come on… it’s kind of funny).
BH – stands for “bröst hållare,” literally “breast holder,” actually “bra.”
Pepparkakor – literally “pepper cookies,” actually “gingersnaps” (but much more delicious).
Fruktkött – literally “fruit meat,” actually “pulp.”
Björnbär – literally “bear berry,” actually “blackberry.”
Jordnötter – literally “earth nuts,” actually “peanuts.”
Bröstvårta – literally “breast wart,” actually “nipple.”
Infart, utfart – literally “entrance, exit,” actually the exact same thing. But again. It’s just funny.
Welcome to Sweden.
Since I first posted this I've had a few suggestions. Some coming from the depths of my own mind, others from readers who have commented below. So here is an extended version:
Blixtlås - literally “lightning lock,” actually “zipper.”
Flodhäst - literally “river horse,” actually “hippopotamus.”
Kiss (from anonymous) – literally “kiss” obviously, actually “pee.” Keep reading.
Puss – literally well... your pick... actually “kiss.” Do not get confused and say you want to “kissa på dig” you might think it means you want to kiss them in some weird “kiss on you” way. If that’s your style. It would not mean that.
Tvättbjörn (from JD) - literally “washing bear,” actually “raccoon.”
Andedräkt (from anonymous) – literally “spirit clothing,” actually “breath.”
Färgglad - literally “color happy,” actually “colorful.”
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