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.

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