All Aboard! "It's Very Swedish..." a train on a cultural journey through Sweden, exploring the differences big and small between American and Swedish culture.
***As I've been writing this series, I've had a lot of time to contemplate the differences in Swedish and English, as languages. OK, not true. I haven't HAD time. I've USED time...Swedish is much more precise, as in there are more words to choose from when trying to express an idea, and therefore one has a better chance of being understood completely.
I'm dividing the "missing in English" words into two categories. One is words we don't need because those "things" don't exist in the US.
Lutefisk is one of those words.
Well, it's debatable whether lutefisk is really needed anywhere...
There's also filmjölk (a kefir like dairy product that tastes more like buttermilk), smörgåstårta (sandwich cake, you saw one in D ~ Dill), rutkaka:
(a special cake that I've never seen anywhere in the US, it's not a pie at all).
Jantelagen, (don't think more highly of yourself than you ought), allemansrätten, (the right to go anywhere you want in Sweden), are other words which apply to Swedish but not American culture.
Then there are the words in Swedish that can't be translated into English because we don't have a word for that concept -but words that we sure could use, like lagom, which means "just about right". There's also annandags jul, which the Brits call Boxing Day, but Americans don't celebrate it.
Of course there are many more examples, but I've been told my posts are too long...
Then there are the dangerous words. The "false friends." I think a story is called for here:
When I was born, lo these many (48) years ago, my Amazing Aunt Risky (see nickname tab above for info about her) traveled to Sweden for the first time to help her big sister with her first baby. She was 16.
Out for a drive, she noticed a windmill with a sign. "Rum Bar Cafe". She probably said something along the lines of, "Oh how cool, they have a rum-bar in an old windmill!" Of course, that's not what it meant.
Rum, pronounced with "um" from photo albUM, instead of "um" from dumb. The word means ROOM, not rum, the alcoholic beverage. So instead of there being a bar which specialized in rum, it was a bed and breakfast where you could get a room, go to the (completely regular) bar and/or the restaurant. Cafe means casual restaurant just like it does in English, but pronounced slightly differently, however, you only have to endure one pronunciation lesson today.
So my Amazing Aunt Risky didn't get her rum, but she did pick up a few Swedish phrases while she was there that she still uses today. "Tack för maten" - thanks for the food. "Du är så duktig!" - you're so clever/good at. Note that it took me three English words to convey the meaning of "duktig".
How is your language structured? Do you have a lot of specific words? Are any of your words part of English?
~Tina, the word-nerd