v21: fred

I once knew a doctor who said that if he was going to market a new drug, he would give it a simple, friendly, easy-to-remember name, and not worry about trademark issues. A name like Fred. In Uppsala we have a museum devoted to fred (Fredsmuseum). Not a drug or a personal name, but fred = peace (the opposite of krig, war). In English, peace can either mean the opposite of war, or else a state of calm and quiet. But not in Swedish: peace in the sense of not war is fred, and peace in the sense of calm is lugn or ro (see also my orolig post).

Etymologically, fred is related to English free = Swedish fri.

I was interested to see recently that a German cemetery is a Friedhof, presumably a rather peaceful place, but in what sense of the word peace? And according to the multiple translations in wiktionary, this word Friedhof seems to be unique to German. In Swedish, cemetery = kyrkogård (with a soft initial k) or begravningsplats, both of which I’m sure need no explanation.

So in Swedish, if you want to describe a sense of peace, you have to decide which variety of peace you mean. What about in English? Is peace ambiguous, which is why calm can be used instead? Is Swedish smarter to have two separate words, or is it always clear from the context? The phenomenon I’m referring to is called polysemy, and I’ll come back to it in the next post.

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Published in: on June 1, 2010 at 17:39  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Peace in the sense of calm in Swedish is also frid (peaceful=fridfull), and that is basically the same word as fred…

  2. My understanding is that the Old High German for Friedhof comes from the verb “umfrieden” = to enclose… i.e. it was an enclosed space for burying the dead. It has undergone something of a semantic change in that it is now associated with Frieden = peace. This has been extended to Friedwald – part of a forest for burying the dead – for those who prefer a more “green” / non-religious resting place.


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