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Twisting tongues: Sweden's sexiest dialect

Karen Holst · 10 May 2011, 15:26

Published: 10 May 2011 15:26 GMT+02:00

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Matters of the heart often play a role in enticing foreigners to move to Sweden, and as they struggle to master the language of their adopted homeland, foreigners hoping to impress their Swedish significant other, may want to think hard about which of the country's many regional dialects they choose to master.

According to some measures, there are more than 100 regional dialects spoken across the country -- and apparently, they are far from equal when it comes to how they are perceived by the average Swede.

A recent poll of 1,000 Swedes conducted by the Swedish Institute for Opinion Surveys (Svenska Institutet för Opinionsundersökningar, SIFO) found that Swedes find the regional dialect spoken in the western town of Gothenburg to be the sexiest of all Swedish dialects.

Following the release of the survey, conducted at the request of a dating website, the dialect spoken in Sweden's "second city" suddenly finds itself on the tip of everyone's tongue.

Margareta Svahn, a dialect researcher from Uppsala’s Institute for Language and Folklore (Institut för Språk och Folkminnen), can understand why "Göteborgska" topped the list of sexy Swedish dialects, garnering 18 percent of votes in the survey.

“I’m not at all surprised by the results – it’s often people’s attitude toward a speaker, not their actual dialect, that creates good vibrations,” she tells The Local.

Svahn explains that while Gothenburg is only Sweden’s second largest city, it also enjoys a more favourable reputation that big sister Stockholm.

“People from Gothenburg are known to be nice, friendly and happy,” she says.

“You hear it when they speak – Gothenburg people have a special, sing-song roll in their speech rhythm. You can always tell a person is from Gothenburg.”

Following the Gothenburg dialect, the dialect spoken in Norrland in Sweden's far north came in second by a hair's breath, with 17 percent of the vote.

The bronze medal in Sweden's sexiest dialect sweepstakes was awarded to Sweden’s southern region, Skåne, which pulled in 16 percent of the vote.

Gothenburg University’s Department of Dialectology, Onomastics and Folklore Research was also quick to explain the city's linguistic sex appeal.

“Gothenburg has long been associated with funny people – humour shows in Sweden often featured people from the west,” says Jenny Nilsson, a dialect researcher in the department who agrees that people often think of someone who speaks a certain dialect rather than the actual dialect itself in such surveys.

“And besides, everyone knows we in Gothenburg are funny and in my personal opinion, funny is attractive,” quips Nilsson in her native upbeat pitch.

Norrlandska, on the other hand, is known to be spoken a little slower and with a lot more breath.

But perhaps not the husky, hussie variety.

“It’s not a heavy, breathy dialect – it’s breathy but light and with very little melody,” describes Svahn, who adds that the northern dialect may even be easier to learn since the northerners have a tendency to cut out the gender or adjective agreements in words.

Skånska, on the other hand, was the unexpected dark horse at the front of the pack.

“It’s just not sexy at all!” Svahn exclaims.

Swedes usually refer to ‘Skånska’ as sounding a bit more like Danish with its deep trill and thick ‘r’, like one is speaking with stones in their mouth, the dialect specialist describes.

“But currently young boys like Skånska because there are a few popular girls from Skåne on TV that have long hair, big mouths and big tits, and so naturally Skånska is now sexy,” Svahn muses.

And despite their proximity to Gothenburg, the counties of Västergötland and Halland feature dialects which barely edging into poll standings with 4 and 1 percent of the vote respectively.

And while residents of those counties may lament the relatively low standing of their respective dialects, they can still rejoice that they received at least some share of the vote -- which is more than can be said of Örebro in central Sweden.

Although Örebro is in the very heart of Sweden, it was without love in an ice-cold bottom position – not one single vote.

“I’m not at all surprised – people just don’t like the gnäll (whining) sound that tends to be heard in their speech. It is instantly recognizable and instantly a turn-off,” says Svahn, who likened the pitch to that of the wicked witch from the Wizard of Oz.

Örebro administrators however feel the ranking is due to unfamiliarity.

"Worth noticing is that the Örebro dialect was not voted unhot, it simply did not receive any votes, which is not surprising since the dialect is rather unknown," says Örebro Tourism Manager Björn Fransson.

He explains that the only associations Swedes may make of the mid-Sweden dialect comes from a humorous and popular stage and television character Hjälmar.

"On the other hand, during the years we have had a number of polls showing that the Örebro people are among the most good-looking in Sweden," jests Fransson, who believes Swedes will begin to make positive connections to Örebro as it becomes a more important city, thus lifting future dialect rankings.

Story continues below…

Svahn disagrees and says there is little hope for Örebro to improve its standings as its dialect can give a sort of skin-crawling effect.

“Perhaps Örebro people should move to Gothenburg or just adapt the Gothenburg dialect,” Nilsson jokes.

And for the record, Stockholm's dialect was anything but hot on the sexy-dialects scale, sliding in at seventh place with an unimpressive 7 percent vote.

Both dialect researchers agree that it is hard to quantify exactly how many dialects one can find in Sweden due to all the variants.

“I don’t think there are more (dialects) in Sweden than in another country similar to Sweden. But we do have a levelling process going on,” says Svahn, who divides the nation into five basic regions, each with their own special attributes and but now with more common variables than ever before.

For her part, Nilsson remains a bit sceptical about the true science of such a poll.

“I don’t think if people listened to and ranked speech samples they would say the same thing as if they are just asked to list a few places,” she says.

In the mean time, however, foreigners looking for an edge in the Swedish dating scene may nevertheless want to do their best to master the Gothenburg dialect.

Karen Holst (kholstmedia@gmail.com)

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Your comments about this article

07:26 May 11, 2011 by positiveguy
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
07:44 May 12, 2011 by philster61
Only Swedes could think their language could be considered sexy.....I guess the Italians or French must be losing sleep.....
10:41 May 12, 2011 by flintis
Must check the date, no it's not April 1st.

They're joking right??
20:03 May 12, 2011 by Icarusty
It's less sexy than Welsh... and that's saying a lot
21:17 May 12, 2011 by Iraniboy
Does any of you care to read the entire article?! It's a comparison between different dialects of Swedish not comparing with Italian, Frence, ...once again anti-Swedish rants in thelocal!
09:59 May 13, 2011 by flintis
@iraniboy:- You did well in English grammar, I see.
13:56 May 13, 2011 by sgdavies
and whats wrong with Welsh icarusty :@ dont ya fancy catherine zeta jones or catherine jenkins? i think welsh and infact all Celtic languages sound nice to the ear. and back on the topic i quite like the sound of Swedish.
15:36 May 13, 2011 by jbkulp
Only Scandinavians can examine minutiae and make it sound important.
22:14 May 13, 2011 by Haubits77B
Why compare with other languages when the question only regards Swedish dialects? Is Italian a Swedish dialect? I do not think so.. However, the finest Swedish dialect would be the one of the Dukeship of Hälsingland/Gästrikland, becouse that dialect is the only one that pronunces words like "älg" and "älv" correct! If you do not like the Swedish language and our Swedish ways - why stay in Sweden???!
04:43 May 14, 2011 by philster61
Because the topic was the idea of "swedish being sexy".. If you don't like other opinions about it, then I suggest you stay away from public forums where opinions are freely expressed.. Again whenever an opposing opinion is expressed, in typical predictable fashion some xenophobe seems to always resort to suggesting the blogger leave Sweden forever.....
11:40 May 15, 2011 by Marc the Texan
The Skånska accent worked on me. I wouldn't even be involved with this country if it wasn't for that accent.
12:45 May 15, 2011 by Haubits77B
Philster61 !!!

The article is not about Swedish beeing sexy - it´s about what Swedish dialect that is most sexy - that is a huge difference!

Xenophobe? Me? Wouldn´t think so - maybe you are?
14:10 May 15, 2011 by TheOriginalBlackMan
LOL sexy? Come on, the first time I heard Swedish I thought the person was speaking German. Swedish is not a warm, sexy or a pleasant language to hear. The yodeling is unnerving and unnecessary. I think Isi-Zulu is the sexist language I have ever heard in my entire life; very warm and rich in tones. Swedish not.
15:28 May 15, 2011 by philster61

There are two things Swedes DON'T have in their language....

Sarcasm and irony...... ever heard of them?
15:35 May 15, 2011 by Haubits77B
Philister61: no! :-)
02:13 May 16, 2011 by philster61
Didn't think so..... Shame really, you'll find that even Muslims can have a sense of humor when they inject a little irony and sarcasm into their "sexy" language.....
19:13 May 16, 2011 by Haubits77B
Islam is a religion and not a language... Milions of muslims don´t speak Arabic at all......
20:32 May 17, 2011 by jen@boston
@philster61 Hahahaha...ouch, I think Haubits deserves a point there. Perhaps you should read a bit more regarding distinctions between religion and language. ;-)
01:45 May 18, 2011 by philster61
haha.ja i have never known any religion to incorporate humour into their doctrine..

Haubits Islam is an Arabic Religion. Also devoid of humour...
01:10 June 15, 2011 by jacquelinee
Come on...cut the Swedes some slack here. After all, they spent who knows how much of the taxpayers money( including the immigrants tax kronor) to actually do a poll to see what flippin' dialect is sexier???? Another waste of tax money to stroke that ever so inflated Swedish ego. But lets lower the wages of low paid immigrants to save money so we can do more polls! Theres a plan. Maybe next time it can be, What is sexier, hair dyed like white cotton candy or like black cotton candy?? Or what guys names are sexier Sven or Gustav. Stroke, Stroke, STROKE that Swedish ego, while we go Broke, Broke, BROKE paying the taxes for a "think Tank" to do a consultation on it.
20:37 July 22, 2011 by hdluke
I love to hear Agnetha Fältskog speak in the few interviews she has done. To me she is the sexiest woman to come from Sweden.
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