Sayings can become very amusing when they are translated literally, and Swedish ones are no exception. Last year, the Twitter hash tag #swedishsayings did exactly this and gained a lot of popularity and laughters, even among people who knew no Swedish at all. The Local published a list of 10 odd sayings a while back, including some commentary about them, and here is the complete list.
- Ingen ko på isen – There’s no cow on the ice. “This is a popular saying in Sweden, which quite simply means “Don’t worry”. It remains unknown how often Swedish cattle are milling about on frozen lakes, but it’s no stretch of the imagination to understand that a cow on ice would be definitely worth worrying about.”
- Nära skjuter ingen hare – A close shot will never get you the rabbit. ” “Close but no cigar” gets a lot more violent in Swedish (and it has a much nicer ring to it!). The Swedes talk about how how a close shot will never get you a hare, and that’s fair enough. In fact, it makes more sense at a glance than the one about the cigar anyway.”
- Skägget i brevlådan – Caught with your beard in the letterbox. “While their English-speaking cousins are messing around getting their hands stuck in cookie jars, Swedes are getting their beards caught in letterboxes. Don’t ask what they’re doing with their faces so close to the letterboxes in the first place…”
- Det ligger en hund begraven – There’s a dog buried here. “There’s something fishy going on here… There’s nothing fishier than a buried dog, right? Well, that’s what a Swede would say. Perhaps it’s the stench of a buried mutt, perhaps it’s the idea of a missing canine companion, or perhaps it’s just the absurdity of it all, but it’s definitely fishy.”
- Att ana ugglor i mossen – Suspecting owls in the bog. “You may think there is nothing fishier than a buried dog, and that’s a perfectly logical assumption. But what about owls in the bog? Yes, those crazy Swedes are at it again. When something strange is afoot, they’ll whisper to each other about those fishy owls and and their boggy surroundings.”
- Smaken är som baken, delad – Taste is like your bum, divided. “While English speakers sometimes rather crudely compare opinions to arseholes (everyone has got one), Swedes take things one step further. They liken opinions to bottoms as both are often perfectly divided down the middle, not unlike the potato below. As with many opinions, potatoes, and behinds, it’s not always a perfect division.”
- Finns det hjärterum så finns det stjärterum – If there’s room in the heart there’s room for the arse. “Nothing can make a guest feel more welcome than talking about their arse, and Swedish proverbs certainly do give a quick aside to a behind (see above). When Swedes are accommodating for extra guests, they’ll often use this beautifully rhyming proverb to welcome them. And their arse.”
- Gå som katten kring het gröt – To walk like a cat around hot porridge. “Don’t beat about the bush, an English speaker might warn. But not so in Sweden, here it’s all about cats and porridge. Swedish felines are not world renowned for their aversion to porridge, hot or otherwise, but at least they have a proverb to their name.”
- Göra en höna av en fjäder – To make a chicken out of a feather. “We’re all familiar with the idea of making a mountain out of a molehill, but the logic surrounding the idea of making a chicken out of nothing but feathers contains several immediate flaws. But it’s a ticklish idea.”
- Köp inte grisen i säcken – Don’t buy the pig while it’s still in the bag. “This proverb warns you off rash decisions. Just like you wouldn’t buy a car before taking it for a spin, Swedes seem to be very particular about their swines, warning each other about the perils of purchasing pouched pigs. Note: Pigs are not usually sold in bags in Sweden.”
Also, check out Swedish Made Easy on Instagram where we post a variety of Swedish sayings on Fridays.