Swedes have a colorful way of insulting one another. And most of our insults hail from the pre-industrialization time, when most of the population were farmers or worked outside.
This means, Swedes love insults relating to dumb geese, stupid donkeys, and gossiping sheep. And in a time when cities were distant, and the countryside was full of peasants, you cannot go far from the forest.
I split the list of insults into phrases and words. Next time you want to get angry with a Swede, you are armed with a list!
Insulting Swedish Phrases Skita i det blå skåpet – To shit in the blue cupboard. It really means to ‘cross the line,’ as in ‘you’ve crossed the line and have pissed people off.’
The phrase originates from the comedy film, Göta Kanal, when the actor Janne Loffe Carlsson says, “Nu har de skitit i det blå skåpet, nu är det krig!” – “You’ve pooped in the blue cupboard, now it’s war!”
Gå och dra något gammalt över dig – Go and hide yourself under something old – Not only you should get lost, but put an old blanket over your head. That way, you can look even more stupid.
Dra åt skogen – Go to the forest – Sweden is full of trees and when you want someone to ‘get lost’ you tell them to ‘go to the forest.’ What a great way to get rid of the annoying hipsters in Söder!
Ditt jävla ålahuvud – You damn eel head – Seriously, that is the literal translation, eel head. Eels are notorious to have, flat, dumb heads?
Släng dig i backen – Throw yourself to the hill – ‘Get lost.’
Goddag yxskaft – Hello axe handle – One of my favorite phrases that I learned in Swedish class, ‘goddag yxskaft’ is a non sequitur. A non sequitur is an illogical statement. This phrase comes from the story of a deaf man who makes ax handles. When a stranger approaches him (most likely to ask the way to the town), he says, “hello”, but the deaf man responds, “axe handle.”
Åsnan mellan två hötappar – An ass between two stacks of hay – Someone who cannot make up their mind, being wishy-washy.
Dum som en gås. – Dumb like a goose – These three insults were common in the olden days. You will probably hear senior citizen say them but not young folks. Tjock som en gris. – Fat as a pig. Envis som en åsna. – Stubborn as a donkey.
Inte rent mjöl i påsen – Not clean flour in the bag – To describe someone who is a crook.
Insulting Swedish Words Snuskhummer – Dirty lobster – Someone who is creepy or a douche bag.
This was sent over to me from some friends reading The Local; an article about funny Swedish idioms.
I put them all together in one page with some extra idioms and our own interpretations.
Are there any other idioms to add?
Nära skjuter ingen hare – A close shot will never get you the rabbit
What it really means:
I was so close to winning!
Yea, “it was close but no cigar.”
Skägget i brevlådan – Caught with your beard in the mailbox
An English idiom to translate: “To be caught with your pants down.”
Det ligger en hund begraven – There’s a dog buried here
“There’s something more to it”
As in, someone is not telling the complete truth.
Att ana ugglor i mossen – Suspecting owls in the bog
This is pretty much as close as a WTF does this mean as you can get.
You can translate it as, “you can suspect that something is wrong.”
Smaken är som baken, delad – The preference is like a butt, split
Don’t translate smaken as, “taste”, like eating taste. Translate it as a “preference.”
I would translate this as, people can have different preferences, like a butt with two cheeks.
Finns det hjärterum så finns det stjärterum – If there’s room in the heart there’s room for the ass.
“Everybody can fit in here” – think of a crowded room.
Gå som katten kring het gröt – To walk like a cat around hot porridge
The Swede has never heard it, so we have no idea what this is talking about.
Göra en höna av en fjäder – To make a hen out of a feather
The English idiom we all know: “To make a mountain out of a molehill.”
Köp inte grisen i säcken – Don’t buy the pig while it’s still in the bag
In English, “to buy a pig in the poke.”
I wasn’t quite sure what this even meant, so I headed over to Wikipedia for their explanation: The idioms pig in a poke and sell a pup (or buy a pup) refer to a confidence trick originating in the Late Middle Ages, when meat was scarce, but cats and dogs (puppies) were not. The idiom pig in a poke can also simply refer to someone buying a low-quality pig in a bag because he or she did not carefully check what was in the bag.
Ta sig vatten över huvudet – Take water over your head
“To bite off more than you can chew.”
Inte döma hunden efter håren – Don’t judge the dog by the hare hair
Another bunny phrase that means, “don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Inte för allt smör i hela Småland – Not for all the butter in Småland
Because America is the land of plenty of butter, we say, “I won’t do it for all the tea in China.”
Inte sälja skinnet förrän björnen är skjuten – Don’t sell the skin before the bear is shot
Meaning, “don’t count your chickens until they hatch.”
And that’s that, don’t throw water over your head if you can’t do it!
Språkrådet, the Swedish Language Council, issues a list of new words every year that officially enter the Swedish language. Some of them make sense, some are just silly, but most are related to pop culture.
When I was reading the list over the weekend, my husband and I were laughing over the word ogooglebar. It means, to be “ungoogleable.” And then we thought, I wonder if Google knows about it…
Yea, well, Google did send Språkrådet nasty grams to change the definition of the word and let everyone know that “google” is protected under copyright. And that copyright extends to languages. God forbid we use a copyright word in the dictionary!
Ann Cederberg, CEO of Språkrådet wrote, “Google har nämligen glömt en sak: språkutvecklingen bryr sig inte om varumärkesskydd.” Meaning, “Google has forgotten one thing: language development does not care about copyright.
It is too bad, ogooglebar is a great word. I am sure most Swedes won’t care and will probably go out of their way to use the word as often as possible just to annoy Google.
For now, stay tuned for the new Swedish words of 2012.
UPDATE, June 5th, 2012: Here’s the poll to vote on your favorite translation of “ice tray.”
With the temperature finally heating up, I stopped by my local Hemköp to pick up a couple ice cube trays. This way, we could have; ice.
While in the tiny kitchen section, I spotted the trays and didn’t twice about calling them islåda in Swedish. Islåda, literally meaning “ice box” isn’t a perfect translation but it gets the point across.
I told my husband I picked groceries, including an islåda. He looked at me like I was from Norway.
“What islåda?” he said.
“The islåda! You know the ice cube tray.”
“That?! That’s not an islåda.”
“Umm, my receipt tells me it is! What would you call it?” Now I was confused.
“I have no idea what you call an ice cube tray in Swedish but I guess English to Swedish can be weird sometimes.”
“Duh, how did you guys come with tvättbjörn as a translation for raccoon?”
“Fair enough,” he replied.
I felt vindicated, I taught my husband a new Swedish word!
Unfortunately the next day my pride deflated as I asked another friend about translating ice cube tray to Swedish.
“I would call it an iskubsbricka. But an islåda it is not,” my friend D said.
“But Hemköp told me so!”
“Hemköp obviously has Swedish issues. Haha.”
Not convinced, we asked the barista at the coffee shop we were at. After several minutes of discussion, she too, had no idea what to call an ice cube tray in Swedish.
I asked yet another friend and they didn’t believe islåda was the proper word.
Thus far, four people agree islåda is a failed translation. The Swedish language authority, Svenska Akademin, agrees too. Islåda does not exist in the dictionary as a real, Swedish word. Tyda.se, on the other hand, translates ice tray to islåda but they do not always use acceptable translations, or real words.
Major mystery. What do I call the ice tray?
How about we come up with a new name and make it new, official word! Let me know your ideal translation. I will create a poll in a couple weeks for all to vote.
Vote at the top of the post!
Peeps, we could be making history – the ice tray may finally have a name!
I’m starting a new series called the Top 5. Top 5 things about anything. Fun, easy to read and perhaps educational, but that’s a bonus.
My first ode to Top Fives is about Swedish words. This list is of seven Swedish words do not mean the same thing in the English language, known as “false friends”. If you translate the word as what you hear, you’d be in for a treat.
And since this is the first post in the series, I say screw it, let’s do sju instead of fem. Because sju is that much cooler to say.
Meaning “good” not the bra you put on to hold your boobs up.
I have a bunch of English books for sale. I have collected them over the years here in Sweden and brought them with me from the States. I just want to clean up our overflowing bookshelf and make way for new crap.
I can mail the books to you but you will have to pay shipping. Worth it if you’re in pumpkinland
Sweden with no good bookstores.
Plus, I have a few DVDs for sale too, scroll to bottom.
All books are 50kr or 3 for 100kr.
…by the way seriously cheap for books in English. :)
Candace Bushnell – One Fifth Avenue (same author as Sex and the City, great summer reading)
Douglas Adams – The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Waris Dirie – Desert Children
Philip Pullman – The Golden Compass
Philip Pullman – The Subtle Knife
Jhumpa Lahiti – Unaccustomed Earth
Anita Kaik – The Lazy Girls Party Guide
KC Cole – mind over matter
Euripides I – Four Tragedies F Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby
Philip K Dick – Do Androids Dream of electric Sheep? (the bok Blade Runner is baded on)
Saga of the Volsungs
99 Classic TV-Series for People in a Hurry
Michael Moore – Stupid White Men William Shakespeare – The Comedy of Errors Carl Sagan – Cosmos
Åsne Seierstad – A Hundred and One Days (a journalist’s story of the war in Iraq)
Frederick Forsyth – The Cobra
Khaled Hosseini – The Kite Runner
30 minute Vegetarian Meals The Swedish Cookbook
Steig Larsson – Män son hatar kvinnor
Jens Lapidus – Snabba Cash
Håkan Nesser- En Helt Annat Historia
Håkan Nesser- Berättelse om Herr Roos
99 Filmer du Slipper Se
Different Priced Books
Nya Mål 3 – Swedish book for SFI, Folkuniversitet, or Medborgaskolan – 150kr
Mario Varas Llosa – Det Gröna Huset (the Noble Prize winner) – 150kr
Harry Potter Series, Books 1-7 – 600kr
Movies for Sale
Sideways – 50kr – great movie about the last hurrah before a wedding set in Southern California wine country
Arrested Development – 450kr for three seasons – The series will be restarting AND with a movie. Get caught up with all three seasons
The Simpsons – Season 8 – 150kr
Titanic – 20kr – Just get it away from me!
Six Feet Under – Season 5 – 150kr – The last season to a drama set in a funeral home. If you love Dexter himself, well, he’s one of the stars in this show to.
The Bourne Identity – 20kr
Sex and the City – 30kr – Perfect for a chick flic night.
Thank You For Smoking – 30kr – Great movie about a tobacco lobbyist. “I do it for the mortgage.” Don’t we all…
If you would like any of the books or movies, contact me and we can meet in Stockholm somewhere or I can mail them to you.
Swedish names are adorable. For the most part at least; until you name your child Knot or Bear. I got inspired by Surviving in Sweden’s post about fun Swedish names. Since I am always bugging the husband about street names, city names, people’s names, I put together a list of all the names I could think of in Swedish and their translations.
I separated the names by first name, last name, and city and street names. Of course some of the names overlap.
Björn – bear
Knut (knútr) – knot
Linnéa – twinflower
Bror – brother
Karl – Man
Orvar – arrow
Siv – bride
Sten – stone
Sture – “to be contrary”
Tor (Thor)- thunder
Dag – day
Rita – to draw/sketch
Kåre – draft, breeze
Lina – line, tightrope
Hans – his
Linda – twine/wind
Meta – to angle
Tova/Tove – the beauty of Tor
Fred – peace
Sven – boy
Torbjörn (Þórbjörn) – Thor’s bear
Arne – eagle
Dagmar (Dagmær) – “day maid”
Torkel (Þórketill)- Thor’s cauldron
Torsten (Þórsteinn) – Thor’s stone
Tryggve – trustyworthy
Ulf (Úlfr)- wolf
Gudrun (Guðrún) – “god’s secret lore”
Hjalmar – “helmeted warrior”
Kettil – kettle, cauldron
Ylve – she-wolf
Freyr – lord
Gunnar – warrior
Gustav – “staff of the Goths”
Einar – “a warrior”
Erik (Eiríkr) – “ever ruler”
Folke – people
Fritjof (Friðþjófr)- “thief of peace”
Bo – life
Axel – shoulder
Ström – current, flow, stream
Pipkorn – small kernel
Lind – lime
Vall – bank, levee
Brunn – well
Mo – fine sand
Berg – mountain
Hed – heath, moorland
Lund – grove, toft
Fors – rapid, whitewater
Falk – hawk
Nordh (norð) – north
Common city names or street names
Vik – bay, inlet, cove
Bro – bridge
Köping – burgh
Eker – spoke
Sund – sound, channel, inlet
Tälja – cut, chip, carve
Ö – island
Å – creek, river
Borg – castle
Göte – bloom
Holm – little island
Stock – timber, log
Troll – goblin
Skog – forest
Hätta – hood, bonnet
And the most popular names of 2010? Maja, Alica, Julia, Linnéa and Wilma.
Congrats if you made this far and managed to get a job, move to Sweden, find an apartment, drink a lot, and get some books in the hopes of educating yourself. Now is the time master the Swedish language.
If you have learned another language, then learning Swedish will not be difficult. It will be hard to speak Swedish because most people naturally switch over to English when they hear someone speaking English or hear that accent. Don’t fret though, listed below are some free online resources to help you learn Swedish.
Tips on learning Swedish:
Increase your Swedish vocabulary by learning five new words a days. Put them on note cards, make lists, and write them down.
Speak Swedish with confidence. Even if you are totally wrong, speak it like you know and people will help you even more.
Ask you friends to send you emails in Swedish. Trade emails and short stories to build your writing ability.
Got a sambo? Then speak to him/her. I totally suck at it because my sambo intimidates me but don’t be a pussy like me.
Watch Swedish news. Swedish news are in the form of riksvenk, the official Swedish. The news anchors without accents from dialects and enunciate words clearly.
Online Swedish language resources to check out: Swedish word of the day – Go figure, it’s supposed to be my Swedish word of the day site but has failed thus far. Still there are some good phrases there. Swedish in 1001 difficult lessons – A famous blog from Francis Strand. Definitely worth checking out. Swedish phrases – Basic lessons on Swedish. This is a good place to get started in more formal learning environment. Lexin Dictionary – A handy online Swedish dictionary
To get formal academic classes in Sweden is easier said than done. The free Swedish courses offered to all immigrants (Svenska för invandrare) is a failed system. The Swedish government even failed the institution saying that most people teaching Swedish at SFI are not even qualified to teach. Now, I have not taken anything from SFI but few people have positive reviews.
The second option is Folkuniversitet, classes you pay for. The quality is higher but it is not cheap.
Third option is to take private lessons. Expensive. Really expensive. I took some provided by my company, they were terrible; just disorganized and making us read texts from the 19th century.
I like to learn languages the academic way. You know, say a phrase fifty times, learn a few new verbs, nouns, and adjectives a day. Write out tons of sentences over and over. Drill down technique. The only way to learn Swedish in this style is to take university lessons, which sadly I haven’t figured out to enroll in, not being a student.
If you want to get started on your own with that get the Form i Fokus Book from any bookstore. Puntino (an Italian blogger in Sweden) also recommends Colloquial Swedish book (ISBN: .
Now for lots of funny Swedish language videos:
Mastering Swedish Lesson 2
This lesson is the funniest of all. It’s about särskrivning, the swedish language art of taking one word that is a combination of two or more words and still writing it out as several words. This is where people get tongue tied in Swedish, by pronouncing long words too slowly, thus separating the word, and turning the phrase into a complete faux pas. (like my French bit to confuse you?)
Here’s the list to the video for Mastering Swedish that the guys used. Notice the difference.
Wrong: Kassa medarbetare – Bad co-workers Right: Kassamedarbetare – Tellers
Här börjar kassa kön – The bad queue starts here Här börjar kassakön – The head of the queue starts here
Vi behöver ett bygg till stånd -We need a build to boner Vi behöver ett byggtillstånd – We need a building permit
Matt tvätt – Tired laundry Mattvätt – Carpet cleaning or carpet cleaner