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

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Published in: on December 18, 2011 at 02:16  Comments (2)  
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v51: älskogskrank

The cold time of year in Sweden is also a common time for people to become ill. Perhaps with the common cold: common cold = förkylning, where kyla = both the noun cold and the verb to cool, whereas the adjective cold = kall. In Swedish, sick = sjuk, and if you’re very sick you may end up in a sjukhus = hospital.

ambulansUnfortunately, you may travel there in an ambulans = ambulance. I say unfortunately because ambulance derives ultimately from the Latin ambulare, to walk (seemingly referring to movable hospitals following the troops on the battlefront, for example during the Crimean War in the 1850s), whereas other languages have much more imaginative words for ambulance, such as German Krankenwagen (sick car), Icelandic sjúkrabíll (sick car), and Hungarian mentőautó (rescue car).

This Swedish tongue-twister may make you feel sjuk:

Sju skönsjungande sjuksköterskor skötte sjuttiosju sjösjuka sjömän på skeppet “Shanghai”.

Seven singing nurses took care of seventy-seven seasick seamen on the ship ‘Shanghai’.

However, there are more interesting ways to be sick in Sweden.

Vinterkräksjuka (literally, winter vomiting sickness) is a viral gastroenteritis caused by viruses of the Caliciviridae family (notably Norovirus, or the Norwalk agent). These are responsible for most cases of epidemic gastroenteritis in adults, so why don’t we have a word for it in English?

Älskogskrank = lovesick, from älska = to love + håg = mind, inclination + krank = sick. Sjuk may be the more common word, but krank seems the more poetic. SAOB offers four ways to experience krank:

avundskrank = sick with envy
bröstkrank = chest sick = consumptive
kärlekskrank = lovesick
älskogskrank = lovesick

Maybe that’s why Swedish employers offer sjukpenning (sickness benefit) rather than *krankpenning?

Published in: on March 24, 2011 at 18:32  Comments (2)  
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v48: geggig

I thought it was about time for some more food words. Geggig = gooey, messy. Related words are gegga: gegga med = mess with; and geggamoja = goo, etc. Tracking the etymology gets complicated. SAOB has no entry for gegg-, whereas NEO has geggamoja, “probably” from a Swedish dialect word gegga, spit + moj, rubbish. So I’m sticking (well, that’s a rather loose pun) with the theory that geggig was invented by a scrabble player faced with a rack full of g’s. Gegga med seems to be generally used in connection with food, or even mess.

Apparently unrelated, moja sig = gona sig = have a good time.

Closely related (texture-wise) is kladdig, sticky: kladdkaka is a popular Swedish dessert: the measure of a good kladdkaka is to some extent its stickiness.

One of my favourites, and a word that should apply to all food, is mumsig (delicious). Also mums! = yum! and mumsa = munch.

The Swedish culture education word this week is fredagsmys. It refers to enjoying a relaxing break at the end of the week, where mys = relaxation, but the concept often involves food. I asked Google whether it’s possible to have mys on other days of the week, and it told me (K = thousands of results):

måndagsmys 49.0K
tisdagsmys 33.5K
onsdagsmys 43.8K
torsdagsmys 39.4K
fredagsmys 318K
lördagsmys 41.0K
söndagsmys 33.4K

Another alternative is helgmys (helg = weekend), with 88.0K results. So if you want some mys, best have it on Friday!

Published in: on February 1, 2011 at 07:49  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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v34: farlig

You may be surprised to know that Swedish has no word for grandfather. Instead, one must choose between farfar (paternal grandfather) and morfar (maternal grandfather). The same same pattern is true for other kinship terms, such as morbror (uncle; mother’s brother) and systerdotter (niece; sister’s daughter). As far as I can work out from Wiktionary, other languages that have distinct words for maternal and paternal grandfathers are Norwegian (but not Danish?), Thai, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Navajo.

Right next to far (father, shortened form of fader) in the dictionary is fara (danger). By now you should be able to guess that farlig is the adjective derived from fara. The two words, far and fara, have unrelated etymologies, which means they ought to be a good source of puns. And here is one: the forthcoming film Dumma Mej (Swedish version of Despicable Me) has the following line in its advertising:

En del kallar honom farlig. De kallar honom far.
Some call him dangerous. They call him Dad.

So it’s true: making puns in Swedish is just like doing it in English. And in case you’re wondering, fatherly = faderlig.

Published in: on September 29, 2010 at 13:18  Leave a Comment  
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v18: glassig

Another two easily-confused words are glas (glass) and glass (icecream). Glas has a long vowel, so does sound similar to the English glass, whereas glass has a short vowel (and long ‘s’), so sounds similar to the French glace, from which it is derived. But what about the adjective glassig? Norstedts defines glassig as flashy, fashionable, with-it, but SAOL says:

blank och glänsande; ytligt flott
bright and shiny; superficially stylish

Which incidentally adds a whole lot of related words into the mix: glans (gloss, shine), glansig (glossy), glänsa (to shine), and glänsande (shiny).

A correspondent on WordReference has this to say about glassig:

Flashy (ostentatious, glossy) is the meaning. It’s said to be derived from eng. glassy (shiny, as glass), but IMO it sounds more likely to come from glossy.
The word has a slightly negative connotation: something which is glossy or flashy in order to brag or show off.

However, there’s also the possibility to make a pun here, if you really want to. For example, a search for glassigaste (the superlative of glassig) on Google Sweden has as the top result Årets glassigaste brollop (The year’s most glassig wedding), which is the wedding of Clovve, the mascot of the icecream company GB Glace. Also, a local shopping mall is currently promoting Årets glassigaste modefest (The year’s most glassig fashion show), with icecream featuring prominently in the advertising. Which just leaves me a little more confused about the connotations of glassig.

Published in: on May 11, 2010 at 10:51  Comments (1)  
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v17: sista

Last Friday was sista april, the last (day of) April, or Valborg (Walpurgis Night), when Uppsala becomes the party capital of Sweden.

Regarding the use of last and latest in English, style guides say that latest is used when there is an expectation of more to come, but last means there will be no more. However, I believe everyday English usage is a bit more forgiving, for example, knowing that Ian Rankin is alive and writing, the following seems quite reasonable to me:

Ian Rankin’s last book was really good.

But in Swedish, sista (last) can’t be used in place of senaste (latest):

Ian Rankins senaste bok var riktigt bra.

Senaste is the superlative form of the adjective sen (sen, senare, senaste = late, later, latest), and the opposite of tidig (early).

But a couple of exceptions: Norstedts gives both sista modet and sista skriket as translations of the latest fashion. However, Google finds more than ten times as many hits for “senaste modet” than for “sista modet”. “Sista skriket” (skrika = to scream) is both a punk band from Gothenburg and a 1993 Ingemar Bergman play, which kind of messes up the searches.

I’ll leave you with these words from the 18th century Chinese poet, Yuan Mei, found while googling:

Klädd efter sista modet

Rocklängden och hattvidden
ha nu under trettio års tid oupphörligt förändrats
men lyckligtvis har jag hållit fast vid den gamla stilen.
Utan att ha behövt följa med i den vansinniga galoppen
är jag nu klädd efter sista modet.

Published in: on May 5, 2010 at 14:44  Leave a Comment  
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v16: orolig

As you may have noticed, there seems to be some correlation not only between word length and frequency, but also between those two and irregularity. That is, the commonest words in a language are often short, and have a tendency to be irregular. So, when learning a language, the beginning (common words) can be the the hardest part. Here’s another example regarding adjectives; I’ve been trying to learn some comparatives, superlatives and opposites:

good, better, best
bra, bättre, bäst

bad, worse, worst
dålig, sämre, sämst

Then I thought this was an easy one: what’s the opposite of rolig (fun, funny)? Orolig seems the obvious candidate, for reasons described previously, but in fact, no. The opposite of rolig is tråkig (boring), whereas orolig (anxious) is the opposite of lugn (calm).

Here it seems to be rolig that has undergone a change in meaning, since it derives from an old Swedish word roliker, meaning calm, and is also related to the noun ro (peace, calmness). However, the corresponding verb is roa (to amuse). I don’t quite follow thw connection between amusement and calmness; the opposites make much more sense, with the noun oro (anxiety) and the verb oroa (to worry) completing the set.

Published in: on May 1, 2010 at 20:00  Comments (4)  
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v10: bullrig

The word bullrig appeared in a front-page headline in UNT earlier this week, something about students being disturbed by the bullrig environment. This was a new one for me, since the only similar words I knew were food-related, which didn’t fit. However, it did give the chance to play with a little-documented feature of Norstedts online dictionary – it allows limited wildcard serches, for example a search for *bull* will find all words containing the string bull.

Two staples of Swedish cuisine are the kanelbulle (cinnamon bun) and the köttbulle (meatball). Interestingly, a meatball doesn’t contain meat, but instead a mystery ingredient known as köttbullssmet (meat ball mixture). A påvebulla (Papal Bull) is spelt differently, but I wonder if a påvebulle would be eaten by Catholics or Lutherans? The plural of bulle is bullar.

The two foods, kanelbulle and köttbulle, are both bullig, rounded. Norstedts translates Bill och Bull as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, which I first thought fitted in with the idea of the twins being quite rotund, but now I’m not so sure: Bill and Bull are actually characters in the famous Pelle Svanslös series of books, set in Uppsala and written by Gösta Knutsson from 1939 onwards.

But the students weren’t being bothered by meatballs, Papal Bulls, or fictional twins. They were bothered by noise (buller), and their environment was noisy (bullrig) rather than rotund (bullig).

So, some words I would regard as easily confused at the level of either spelling or pronounciation: edible round things (eg, kanelbullar, fiskbullar), nonedible round things (eg, fotbollar, snöbollar), and types of noise (eg, flygbuller, motorbuller).

Published in: on March 14, 2010 at 20:50  Leave a Comment  
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v3: osynlighet

Time to finish discussing adjective morphology. As a commenter pointed out, as well as underbar (wonderful), Swedish also has underlig (strange). But in case you might start thinking you discern some difference between the -lig and -bar endings, think again! Swedish has two similar words for edible: ätlig and ätbar, and three similar words for visible: synlig, synbar, and synbarlig. All those words are in SAOL, but some of my colleagues don’t think synbar is a “real” word. And interestingly, when it comes to opposites, SAOL lists only oätlig and osynlig.

I did say morphology was fun, and it’s also a useful way of packing a lot of meaning into a small space, but sometimes there’s a tendency to get a little carried away with it. For instance, on a crime show I was recently watching, one of the detectives was talking about the directionality of a line of blood drops, where the word direction would have done just as well. From a morphological standpoint, the noun directionality is formed from the noun direction, plus the suffix -al to turn it into an adjective, plus the suffix -ity to turn it back into a noun again. Sometimes suffixes do carry specific meanings (consider employer versus employee), but sometimes, as here, I can’t see that they do: the suffix -ality, in particular, often seems to serve the sole purpose of increasing the length of a word.

To illustrate the ability of morphemes to carry specific meaning, consider osynlighet (invisibility). Without all those little morphemes, one would have to say something like “the property of not being able to be seen”, which is verging on the unreadable. Note also that the order of the morphemes is identical in Swedish and English.

Next week, time to tackle verbs again.

Published in: on January 18, 2010 at 21:08  Leave a Comment  
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