Top ten words you didn’t know came from Sweden
The Local · 23 Oct 2012, 15:15
Published: 23 Oct 2012 15:15 GMT+02:00
The English language is made up by a hodge-podge of words borrowed and stolen from other languages.
For example, we took Santa Claus from Dutch, safari from Swahili and robot from Czech.
Similarly, giraffe comes from Arabic, the humble biro from Hungary, and you can’t even step into a restaurant without coming across French words.
Even the word restaurant is French!
But what has Swedish given us?
The truth is, hardly anything.
In fact, only seven or eight words by our count, and that was a stretch.
And worse, with the exception of smorgasbord (smörgåsbord in Swedish – a food buffet), and probably moped (from trampcykel med motor och pedaler "engined bike with motor and pedals"), they’re all ridiculous.
Ombudsman, Tungsten, Fartlek. And what on earth is a lingonberry?
More people use the words Celsius, Abba and Ikea but they’re proper nouns so we can’t include those.
But if you consider Old Norse, the language of the ancient Nordic gods, the Vikings, and Scandinavia itself, you’ll find that dozens of words have remained in our daily lexicon, no doubt forced upon English speakers when Viking warriors and merchants invaded Britain more than 1,000 years ago.
For example, the name of a popular weekly event comes from Old Norse, as does an everyday kitchen appliance - plus a popular birthday food...
Extra points if you can guess those three words, but to find out what they are, plus seven more, check out The Local's top ten here.
And for all the sticklers who say these words aren’t Swedish, you're right. But Sweden didn’t exist then. Neither did Norway or Denmark.
This was Old Norse and this was Scandinavia - the land of the Viking Vocabulary.
Editor's note: All etymology taken from the Merriam Webster online dictionary.