How many times a day do we, non native English speakers, go “argh, there’s such a great word for it in Swedish/Russian/Italian/Hindu/Arabic/Bosnian?
I know I say it all the time, and there are so many words that I feel that English need for it to be a more complex, and colourful, language. So I’ve decided to list a few, because I need more people to understand me when I frustratingly start speaking Swedish.
Fika – let’s start easy. Fika is something we all need to say and DO! Fika is kind of a coffee break, but also so much more than that. Fika is what you do around three o’clock at work, when the need for a hot beverage hits you, but here, at this time, you should also add something to eat. Maybe a small sandwich, or a lovely cinnamon bun. Some biscuits will do, although today, the first Tuesday in March – Fettisdagen, a Semla would be the best option. Fika is basically optimising your coffee (or tea) break. In my family the evening fika was the best fika. We always had dinner early when I was growing up, around five or six o’clock, and a little fika with tea and scones a couple of hour later always cheered me up. But honestly, you can fika any time you want!
Hen – In Sweden, hen is not a chicken. Hen is the word we use to describe when a person is neither a boy or a girl, a man nor a woman. Hen is the gender neutral pronoun and I find myself using it in English all the time. They, their, and them works, but only if the person you talk to or write to is aware of the pronouns, and people are scarily unaware (read ignorant) about this kind of things. Hen also gets criticised, of course, but when hen is said or written in Sweden everyone know what it means.
Missunnsam – This one of my favourite words in Swedish, and one of my least favourite qualities in a person. When I google missunnsam in English I get “envious” and “jealous”, but that is not all, you can be envious and missunnsam, or just one of them. A missunnsam person is someone who can’t be happy for others success, someone who won’t react when others do something good or are happy about something. It is like a missunnsam person doesn’t give it to other people to be happy, and won’t be happy for them either.
Hetsig – Hetsig is another word for eager, keen, and pushy. Hetsig is when you do something a bit rushed and almost wildly. You can be hetsig and nervous, and hetsig and happy, but it is basically when you do something a bit too fast without thinking much about it. You can be hetsig as you try to flirt in a club, or hetsig as you run in for a tackle in football. Too fast and too eager, which will probably lead to a yellow card or a slap in the face.
Bajskorv – This one is just accurate. Poo in Swedish is poo sausage. Bajskorv.
JAG ORKAR INTE – This is what I moan to Dennis when the internet connection is failing during a movie or worse, an episode of Game of Thrones. Orka is basically “don’t have the energy for it” or “can’t be bothered”. Orkar you go to the shop and get milk? That would be “do you have the energy to go to the shop and buy milk?” And when it’s JAG ORKAR INTE it means I AM TOO TIRED/WEAK/ANNOYED FOR THIS.
Duktig – I say duktig all the time. Mainly because I nanny a 21 month old little boy, but also because my boyfriend is duktig when he’s doing the washing up or tidying our bedroom. Duktig is when you have done something good and need to hear it. It is similar to well done or good job.
Mormor and morfar/Farmor and farfar – All my friends here in England knows that when I say Morfar I talk about my grandfather on my mothers side. In Sweden we have words describing the individual grandparent which I think is something that is highly needed in English. Mormor is grandmother on mothers side, morfar is grandfather on mothers side, farmor is grandmother on fathers side, and farfar is grandfather on fathers side. Easy peasy right?
That is the words I use in my everyday mix of languages, but I also want to introduce you to a few expressions that I have used using English words and gotten a few reactions.
Jag känner inte igen mig – “I don’t recognise myself”. We say this when we arrive to a place we have visited before but somehow doesn’t recognise or remember. It works fine in Swedish, but when I said it in English the first time I heard how stupid it sounds.
Finns det hjärterum finns det stjärterum – “If there’s room in the heart, there’s room for the butt”. This means that if you care for someone or love a person, or just think a person should have a spot on the sofa, there will always be space/room for this person. Like if you live in a small place but a friend is asking if hen can stay over, you can say finns det hjärterum finns det stjärterum!
Kasta inte sten i glashus – “Don’t throw rocks in houses made of glass”. This expressions warn you to talk badly about something a person does that you are also guilty off. Let’s say that I always arrive late to meetings, and then I complain about someone else being late, that would be me throwing rocks in houses made of glass.