Funny Swedish Things

It is time for a bit of fun with some more differences…and similarities… between the Swedish and English languages. This is a bit of an extension of a post I did before Don’t Let That Farthinder Stop You.

I Love Chicago

Chicago Skyline 2008

Chicago Skyline 2008 (Photo credit: TomC)

One day I went to say hi to one of my colleagues, who speaks and writes excellent English. Over his shoulder I saw that he was reserving seats for a show, so I asked him where he was going.


I was surprised since she had recently stopped making her famous show. I was also surprised that this younger male person was such a fan that he would be making a special trip to see Oprah. I took it at face value anyway and asked when he was travelling to Chicago.

Why would I go to Chicago to see the Oprah? 

I mentioned that I saw he was booking seats on line.

He furrowed his brow.

You know, the show where big people sing in a foreign language while acting out a story? Oprah.

Opera. Oprah. When said with a darling Swedish accent, anyone can make the same assumption that these two things are the same.

More Swedish Words that Look like English Words…But Aren’t.

I love crime thrillers and other similar genres of TV and movies. It is impossible for me not to read the Swedish subtitles and test my vocabulary. Often I discover that there are words, when read, that mean one thing but when translated mean something completely different. In general, I also notice it everywhere I go.

Farnkenstein monster

Here are the ones I recently noticed and like (Swedish words in italics, English in bold):

  • Mönster: One meaning is related to the psychological concept of patterns, as in, a serial killer’s modus operandi. A MONSTER pattern to me. You can go to Google Translate to listen to the actual pronunciation.
  • Prick has a variety of meanings, one of which is dot as in a full stop/period, as in when you say It is also another word for bull’s eye. You get the picture. Play with it as you see fit.
  • Hot means threat or menace.


  • Hiss is an elevator. And when you approach a hiss, there is this very helpful button that says hit. When I first got here I thought it was very nice of the Swedes to help me know that this is the one to hit…or to come here (upp means up).
  • The Swedes are very kind and like to help you open and close doors. Drag means pull, so this is another useful tip from the Swedes letting me know what to do with the door. The opposite is a little confusing… a trick of sorts. Tryck means to push. And because there is no standard in place in Stockholm (for example, requiring all doors opening outwards for safety reasons), it really is a tryck to figure out how to get out of stores.
  • Ned and Fred are popular here, too. Ned is everywhere you see hit by the hiss..since it means down. And Fred, well it is a lovely word meaning peace. I bet the makers of the Flintstones did not know that!
Fred Flintstone

Fred Flintstone (Photo credit: Fred Seibert)

6 thoughts on “Funny Swedish Things

  1. Very funny and very interesting all at once. Of course, the English language will always end up confusing people with the same word meaning different things depending on its use within a sentence. At least I now know a little something if I ever travel to Sweden.

    • Even if you don’t travel here, I think it is fascinating to think about all these words travelling around the world, from place to place, and how words might have been mixed up a little over time. There is a famous story about the origin of my country’s name, Canada. From the Canadian Heritage website

      “In 1535, two Indian Youths told Jacques Cartier about the route to “kanata”. They were referring to the village of Stadacona; “kanata” was simply the Huron-Iroquois word for “village” or “settlement.” But for want of another name, Cartier used “Canada” to refer not only to Stadacona (the site of present day Quebec City), but also to the entire area subject to its chief, Donnacona. The name was soon applied to a much larger area: maps in 1547 designated everything north of the St. Lawrence River as “Canada.”

    • It will always fascinate me, and even more so now that the Internet and texting is changing many people’s language use and ability to spell correctly. Thanks for visiting.

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