v47: istapp

istapparIstapp (plural istappar) = icicle. Another Swedish word for icicle is ispigg (the SAOB definition of istapp is simply ispigg), where pigg = spike, quill, as discussed previously. So what about tapp?

As usual, here things get somewhat confusing. SAOB says tapp has a Germanic origin, meaning tapered. However, according to Oxford, taper is derived from the latin papyrus, and refers to the shape of a candle, the wicks of which were made from papyrus pith. Tapp also means tap, in the sense of the spout part of a tap; the whole appliance (faucet) is a kran. So you can see that they all seem to be linked together somehow.

The verb tappa tells you many things that can be done with a tapp, such as tappa upp ett bad, run a bath.

Etymology aside, other nice tapering thing is a molntapp, wisp of cloud.

But by far the most curious word on this page must be icicle, which is apparently derived from ice + ickle, where ickle is an English dialect word meaning icicle. Go figure! Or, beware of etymology:


Published in: on January 28, 2011 at 14:06  Comments (4)  
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v46: sånt

Sånt is a tricky word to look up in a dictionary because it is both an inflected form and a contraction. Sånt is a contraction of sådant, the neuter form of sådan, such.sånt It appears in the phrase sånt är livet (such is life), but Google also finds many business names with sånt, including Ballonger & Sånt, Kaffe & Sånt, Spel & Sånt, Inreda & Sånt, and Silver & Sånt (notably, all with & rather than och). Incidentally, silver is the same word in both Swedish and English, and related words are found as far afield as Russian cеребро.They are all thought to derive ultimately from an Akkadian word.

I googled the various forms of sådan and their contractions, and found that sånt appears to be the only one for which the contraction is the more common form (M = millions of results):

common sådan 14.6M sån 3.25M
neuter sådant 3.86M sånt 9.41M
plural sådana 3.78M såna 1.40M

As a comparison, here are the results for någon (some, any), which behaves similarly to sådan in its inflections and contractions:

common någon 28.3M nån 10.6M
neuter något 29.2M nåt 5.03M
plural några 25.6M nåra 0.18M


Något för alla
Something for everyone

Published in: on January 21, 2011 at 15:54  Leave a Comment  
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v45: oslagbara

oslagbaraHere’s one to test your skills. The sign at the right says Fyrverkerier till oslagbara priser, Fireworks for ??? prices.

So what about oslagbara? The -a ending is the plural marker, agreeing with priser, so the whole word can be broken down into o-slag-bar-a, which translates as un-???-able-[plural]. Which only leaves one small part of the word left to work out. Unfortunately this small piece is the key to the meaning.

To make it easy for you, oslagbara = unbeatable. It’s related to the verb slå = beat (in the sense of both hit and defeat), and the noun slag = hit, knock, punch. SAOB says slag is derived from the Old Swedish slagh. The closest English word is slay, which the Online Etymology Dictionary traces back to the Proto-Germanic slakhanan. A slagman is a batsman, and slagverk are percussion instruments.

Melodifestivalen is the competition to decide the Swedish entry into the Eurovision song contest; the first semi-final for 2011 is in Luleå on February 5. The common type of music in the competition is a form of light pop known in Sweden as schlager (leading to the competition being referred to as Schlagerfestivalen!). The word schlager itself has the same origin as slag, and seems to refer not to the beat of the music but its impact, just like the English hit.

Published in: on January 18, 2011 at 08:13  Leave a Comment  
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v44: mellan

I’ve been remiss not to talk about prepositions yet, but they can be tricky. For instance, once you learn that i means in, or possibly at, it’s confusing to then know that in telling the time, ten to eight is tio i åtta. So I’ll start with an easy one: mellan = between.

Apart from the obvious, mellan also appears in expressions such as Mellanamerika (Central America), mellanmjölk (medium-fat milk), and mellanmål (snack, literally between-meal).

mellanMellandag, originally meaning any days between two points in time, has since the late 1800s come to refer to the days between Christmas and New Year (see SAOB for the history). But now the most common use seems to be in the expression mellandagsrea, which Norstedts translates as year-end sales (so they can extend well into January).

A specific sort of mellandag is the klämdag, which is a working day that falls between a public holiday and a weekend (so a common time to choose to take a day off work). From klämma, to squeeze, so literally a squeeze-day.

Published in: on January 14, 2011 at 08:05  Leave a Comment  
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