Monday, January 09, 2006

Swedish Word of the Day

While I am still in the process of learning my own difficult lessons in Swedish, Francis Strand has had the wonderful idea of posting a "Swedish word of the day" at the end of each entry on his blog, How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons. I thought of his blog this weekend as I began unpacking some boxes we pulled out of storage during the move to the new apartment. I came across a list of words we had tacked up onto the kitchen cupboard during my first few months in Stockholm in Fall 2002, when I had the pleasure of living in a student collective in Gamla Stan (at the time, knowing nothing of the Stockholm housing market, I didn't realize how lucky I actually was). What was quite fun about finding this list is not just to see how far my Swedish has come since then, but also reminiscing about the things that prompted the addition of a new vocabulary word.

The list is, for the most part, in two columns, one for English and one for Svenska, although for awhile it was expanded to three columns due to the enthusiasm of the Finnish exchange student who lived next door. Thanks to him, the Finnish words for afterparty, toothbrush, and hat are forever burned into my memory (jatkot, hammasharja, and pipo, respectively).

The very first word on the list is lördagsgodis, roughly translated as "Saturday candy." It reminds me of Dr. Style, who was forever running down to 7/11 to restock her supply of goodies, and NOT just on Saturdays, mind you. I remember thinking that Sweden must be a cruel place to be a child, when Dr. Style tried to explain the concept of lördagsgodis, if you are only allowed candy one day of the week.

Then there are several practical additions to the list, including portkod (door code) and osthyvel (cheese slicer), which are of course indispensible for day-to-day life in Sweden. (God forbid you should use a KNIFE to cut your cheese!!)

Then there was the chicken soup incident, which prompted the words klumpig and pinsam to be scribbled on the ever-growing list. The chicken soup was not klumpig, I was klumpig due to the fact that I spilled a pot of boiling broth all over myself and the kitchen. Needless to say, the entire event was rather pinsamt.

And then came November and with it new word benvärmare as well as SKITVADER! (appropriately scrawled in all capital letters followed by an exclamation point). Brandsläckare (fire extinguisher) and sur (grumpy) also made the list, the former possibly referring to an incident with a candle and a table cloth, the latter likely describing my mood before 11 am.

And you can't forget about romance. Thanks to that list, I also learned the words hjärta and hjärna (presumably my heart and my head were saying two different things) as well as mysa and gosa (to cuddle). I think I had already learned the more x-rated versions of words of a similar genre BEFORE arriving in Sweden, thanks to a very talented teaching assistent in my Swedish class.

Let's not forget the wonderful challenges of pronunciation of Swedish vowels! You try and make bi (bee) and by (village) sound like two different words with an American accent and see how well you do!

Mmmm, that was a fun trip down memory lane. Now I should say god natt and go and lägga mig.

Swedish word of the day: gäspa. That means to yawn.


Blogger Francis S. said...

It's funny, it is the damn vowels that gets me, too, not the weird consonants. Long A and short A is the worst, although long U and short U is a close second...

10:11 PM  
Blogger Silverfisken said...

The difference in pronounciation between bi and by can only be achieved with distinct lip pouting (in by) and grinning (in bi). Ask a Swede to show you. Eeeeeasy peasy.

12:10 AM  
Blogger Pandora FireSiren said...

I stumbled across your blog - I'm learning Swedish as well. I'm just fascinated with everything to do with the country, people, language...I grew up in Chicago's Swedish neighborhood, Andersonville, so I feel like a Swede by nurture. My email's, and my name's Nadia, if you ever wanna chat! Have a good day!

12:37 PM  

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