v44: lördag

I was taught that the days of the week in English were named for Germanic gods (plus the sun and the moon), so it’s reasonable to expect the names to be similar in Swedish. Let’s have a look:

Monday = måndag
Tuesday = tisdag
Wednesday = onsdag
Thursday = torsdag
Friday = fredag
Saturday = lördag
Sunday = söndag

Well, the similarities are obvious, apart from lördag. It turns out that Saturday is named for Saturn, who was a Roman, rather than Germanic, god. What about lördag? According to Wikipedia, the name derives from the old habit of bathing on this day (löga = bathe).

However, a much more important tradition observed on Saturdays in modern-day Sweden is that of lördagsgodis (Saturday sweets). Apparently this dates back to the 1950s/1960s as an effort to prevent tooth decay. That is, tooth decay would be reduced if children ate sweets on only one day per week. Reasonable enough, you may think, but the background to this is rather dark.

The Vipeholm experiments were carried out on the background of poor dental health in Sweden at that time, and involved the (essentially) force-feeding of high carbohydrate toffee (Vipeholm toffee, “specially formulated to maximise retention of the sugar on the teeth”) to a group of patients at the Vipeholm institute for the mentally retarded in Lund during 1945-1955.  These experiments led to a very good understanding of the relationship between sugar intake and tooth decay, but flew in the face of modern medical ethical principles. Even back then, the Nuremberg Code, outlined in 1947, specified the need for consent, which was not obtained (from either the subjects, their next-of-kin, or patient representatives) at Vipeholm.

Dental health in Sweden is now excellent, owing to a combination of fluoridated toothpaste, widespread availability of dental services, promotion of dental hygeine, and lördagsgodis. But not fluoridated water. I wouldn’t put you through the pain of trying to use the internet to research water fluoridation, as it’s one of those areas dominated by pressure groups and pseudo-science, but you may be interested to know, contrary to what you may hear, that water fluoridation was never banned in Sweden; instead Parliament in 1971 repealed an Act which allowed water fluoridation (for example, read here). Not being allowed is not the same thing as being banned, is it?

Enjoy your godis!

Next week:


What verb do these two instruments have in common?

Published in: on October 26, 2009 at 09:19  Leave a Comment  
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