7 Things Series, Life in Sweden, Stories from the West

7 Funny Swedish Phrases

This post is a part of the writing project called Stories from the West that I started with Christa. We’re both currently living on the west coasts (Christa in the US, me in Sweden), hence the name of the project. We want to share our experiences living as immigrants, and every month we’ll write a post each with the same topic. The topic for this month is ‘local lingo‘. Don’t forget to read Christa’s post, 5 Phrases that Make You Sound like a Californian.

The topic for this month is actually local lingo, but I don’t know much about Gothenburg’s lingo, so I thought I’d write about funny Swedish phrases, expressions, or words. These words never fail to make me chuckle, and it makes learning Swedish much more fun (by about tenfold).

1. Skogstokig

Literally, skogstokig means ‘forest mad’ (skog = forest, tokig = mad). But to be skogstokig means to be furious. I’m still wondering why they use ‘forest mad’ for this. Do Swedes wander in the forest when they’re furious? Do they go crazy in the forest? Ah, the mystery.

2. Rund under fötterna

Rund under fötterna, ’round under the feet’, means heavily intoxicated or wasted. You can’t stand steadily when you’re drunk, hence the phrase (I’m just guessing here).

3. Goddag yxskaft

Good day axe handles, is what you say to someone when they give an answer totally unrelated to the question. The story has it that an almost-deaf old man was making axe handles, and when a passerby says ‘Good day,’ he thought they were asking what he was making, and answered with ‘axe handles’.

I can only think of the Indonesian equivalent for this: ‘Jaka sembung naik ojek, kagak nyambung jek.’

4. Du har satt din sista potatis

You have planted your last potato. When you hear this, that means you’re in trouble. This is the Swedish way of saying, ‘You’ve crossed the line, and I’ve had enough.’

To me, this idiom is funny because of how very Swedish this idiom is. First, it’s about potato, and second, it’s a warning but it still sounds so nice and mild (although I’m sure the meaning is anything but).

5. Släng dig i väggen

Literally, throw yourself to the wall, is what you say to someone annoying. Maybe the English equivalent would be ‘go take a hike’ or ‘get lost’. Or the Indonesian equivalent, ‘ke laut aja lo’.

Talking about literal, some Swedish words are just the literal description of what it is. Case in point: the word for gum is tändkött, but it literally means teeth meat (tänd = teeth, kött = meat). The Swedish word for scarf is halsduk, or neckcloth (hals = neck, duk = cloth). Or, the most famous one: grönsaker, or green things (grön = green, saker = things), the Swedish word for ‘vegetables’.

Makes sense, but also funny.

6. Smaken är som baken, delad

I’ve mentioned this before in a post about Swedish buns. ‘The taste is like the butt, divided’ means that everyone has their own taste, or the English equivalent, ‘to each their own’. I can’t help thinking who came up with this idiom though, and what was on their head.

7. Ingen ko på isen 

The literal translation is ‘no cow on the ice’, and that means nothing to worry. No heavy cow to break the ice and cause all problem, more or less. I’ve been told nobody uses this phrase anymore, but I still like it!

There’s a lot more funny Swedish expressions that make me crack a smile, but these are my favorite.

Do you have any funny idioms (in any language) to share? I’d love to know! 🙂

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  • Reply Christa

    Hahaha they are indeed funny! Somehow I found myself chuckles when I read no.7… no cow on ice 😂

    May 5, 2019 at 10:47 pm
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      Swedes are really creative when it comes to idioms 😀

      May 7, 2019 at 9:03 pm
  • Reply kutukamus

    Two things came to mind:
    1. Ngono ya ngono, ning aja ngono
    2. pétarade

    The first is Javanese, more of a saying or expression than idiom. (“Gitu ya gitu, tapi jangan begitu”).
    The other is French, a term rather than an idiom. Just made an article about it (Still makes me wonder what made them even care to have a ‘call’ for something like this in the first place).

    PS: “yxskaft”? Now how I am supposed to pronounce that?! 🙂

    May 16, 2019 at 12:42 pm
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      Thanks for sharing! I’ve heard ‘Ngono ya ngono, ning aja ngono’ before. Pétarade is such an interesting word 😀

      May 26, 2019 at 3:07 pm

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