v28: häpna

There seem to me to be an awful lot of hairdressers in Sweden. Or rather, hairdressing establishments. An article in Occupational And Environmental Medicine says there are “about 19 000 hairdressers in Sweden, of whom 80–90% are women and most are self-employed, working in small salons”. I don’t know how this compares to other countries, maybe you can help me on this?

Of linguistic concern is that most hairdressers can’t seem to find a better name for their shop than frisör (hairdresser). However, we have a local hairdresser called hår och häpna. Hår (hair) is obvious, but it took me a long time to look up häpna = be amazed. I was! Hair and be amazed? It’s actually a pun on the phrase hör och häpna, literally listen and be amazed, Norstedts says wait for it, I’m sure you get the idea.

But it’s also a chance to talk about inchoative verbs. These are verbs that describe either a transition or the start of a transition. They’re not such a big feature of English, but some examples are to age, and verbs ending in -en, such as to redden, to lighten, to lengthen.

In the June 2008 issue of Språk, Fredrik Lindström (also here) wrote an article about Swedish inchoative verbs. Essentially, these verbs end in -na, are generally derived from adjectives, and often have other verbal counterparts:

blek (adjective) = pale
bleka (transitive verb) = to bleach
blekna (inchoative verb) = to turn pale

Lindström argues that this is somewhat of a productive process, so you can make up new verbs from old adjectives, and know just what they mean:

ful = ugly
fulna = to become ugly

Why not give it a try? Here’s mine: kändna.

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Published in: on July 29, 2010 at 16:02  Leave a Comment  
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