75: var

English used to have three words for where: where (location), whither (motion towards), and whence (motion from). Now we rely on context: Where are you going? clearly denotes motion towards, for example.

Swedish retains this three-way distinction for adverbs of motion, so that:

var = where (place)
vart = where (motion towards)
varifrån = where (motion from)

There’s a group of adverbs of motion that this applies to, here’s a partial list:

English location motion towards motion from
where var vart varifrån
here här hit härifrån
up uppe upp uppifrån
home hemma hem hemifrån

There are several more, you can look them up, but I’ll have some fun in showing you how they are used.

As you enter Uppsala, you are greeted by the saying

Välkommen hit; Välkommen hem:

276b3e3d-84ad-4bc9-91ee-fa66272cd980

So now you know this means

Welcome to here; Welcome to home.

The rest of the sign is also lovely:

Besök Fyrishov / Sveriges 4:e största besöksmål
Visit Fyrishov / Sweden’s 4th most popular place to visit

I’m sure my translation is rather loose, but here’s a good trivia question for you: what are the top 3?

I really like the Iranian-Swedish singer Laleh. Bjurö Klubb is a wonderful song, and if you understand the lyrics, the following video makes sense also. She’s having a conversation with a Blue Whale (blåval). The whale says:

Varje kväll du tänker högt och viftar armar
Every evening you’re thinking aloud and waving your arms

The cameraman zooms in on her hand to make sure we get the point?!? But what’s not to like about the way she pronounces viftar armar.

And then:

jag kan ta dig härifrån
I can take you away from here

Here’s the video:

Here’s an interesting way to learn some Swedish. This is Veronica Maggio singing Välkommen in. The line I’m interested in is:

Jag bor fyra trappor upp
I live four floors up

That makes sense now, I hope: this is definitely an example of motion towards.

Välkommen in!

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Published in: on December 19, 2011 at 13:11  Comments (3)  
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74: rädd

The adjective rädd = afraid, scared, and is inflected as follows:

common: rädd
neuter: rätt
plural: rädda

However, according to Språkrådet, the neuter form, rätt, is rarely used.

Rädd is used in the following constructions:

rädd för = scared of something
rädd att
+infinitive = scared of doing something
rädd för att +infinitive = scared to do something:

rädd för kärleken
afraid of love
rädd att flyga
fear of flying
rädd för att misslyckas
scared to fail

The inflections of rädd are also words in themselves. Rätt means both right (the adjective correct, and the noun, a legal right), and a dish or course at a meal.

The Swedish charity Rädda Barnen has nothing to do with scared children, but is Save the Children, where rädda = save, rescue, and räddare = rescuer.

One last word for you: nöd = need, distress; so:

en hjälpare i nöden
a friend in need

So, how do you translate the following?

Räddaren i nöden

Would you believe:

The Catcher in the Rye

Published in: on December 18, 2011 at 02:16  Comments (2)  
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73: lussekatt

Today (December 13) is St Lucy’s Day, Luciadagen. Lucy/Lucia lived in Syracuse, Sicily, from 283-304. She was martyred when she (a Christian) refused to marry a non-Christian. Her name derives from the Latin, lux, light, and indeed she is patron saint of the blind. A common story is that her eyes were removed at some point during her martyrdom, but this seems to be a later addition.

Lucia is a major celebration in modern-day Sweden, dating from the 1760s.  Most towns will elect a Lucia, who will then, dressed in white with candles in her hair, lead an entourage while singing Lucia songs. All the while, dark and (maybe) snow outside. It’s really quite a moving ceremony. Interestingly, the best examplar I could find on youtube is a Swedish Lucia held in Barcelona:

What about the word? Lussekatt is a type of bun eaten at Lucia. It’s coloured with saffron, and the basic shape is this:

I’ve heard a suggestion that these remind you of poor Saint Lucy’s eyes, but it’s more likely that they remind you of a cat, curled-up asleep, hence the name lussekatt. Or half the name, anyway. SAOB lists many words under the headword lucia, lussekatt being one of them. The earliest reference is to 1898, in Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfarts Tidning. But SAOB also gives an alternate name for lussekatt: dövelskatt. Dövel is a Swedish dialect word for djävul, devil. And therein lies the rub.

The lusse- in lussekatt is related not to Lucia, but to Lucifer, the devil himself. Rather than explaining in detail, I’ll give you some further reading below. Strange as it may seem, the etymology of Lucifer is also connected to light. It seems the key biblical passage is Isiah 14:12, here’s the King James version:

12How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

Some food for thought on a dark day in Sweden! Here are the links:
Lucia – legend, myt och fakta (SVT)
Faktoider: Lussekatter
How to make Lussekatter (Community of Sweden)
Saint Lucy (wikipedia)
Lucifer (wikipedia)

Published in: on December 13, 2011 at 09:02  Leave a Comment  
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v0: interlude

Of course there is no week zero. I just thought I’d take this opportunity to comment on my own blog, a meta-post if you like.

Those of you who have been following this blog will have noticed there were no posts from 24-Mar until 26-Nov this year. The main reason for this is that I left Sweden, 😦 , so that I no longer have regular contact with Swedish, nor do I have so easy access to my invaluable swedish language consultants (you know who you are!).

However, when checking in again on my blog, I noticed a funny thing. Site “views” (that’s what WP calls them) are increasing. My busiest month by far was November-2011, with 934 views. Second place was February-2011, with 687 views. And my busiest day was 22-Nov-2011, with 70 views.

Why is this? I suspect it has something to do with search engines. According to WordPress, these are the top 20 search terms which led people to my blog:

swedish words 150
sweden words 132
swedish word for snow 100
spiskummin 78
kön 55
swedish words for snow 54
swedish puns 54
glassig 34
words from sweden 32
swedish reflexive verbs 31
words in swedish 29
swedish modal verbs 24
swedish etymology 24
sje sound 24
sje-sound 23
dagsmeja 22
spiskumin 18
skapade 18
sweden puns 18
sånt 18

If you google “swedish words”, you’ll find me easily. For “spiskummin”, I am second only to wikipedia. In the thought that people may be interested in this topic, I’ve decided to persevere a little further. But I’m changing the numbering system to reflect the actual number of posts, and thanks in advance to those of you who I’ll still be asking for advice!

Published in: on December 3, 2011 at 23:14  Comments (2)  
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