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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: en långkörare

In the first of a new series of articles exploring the highlights and oddities of the Swedish lexicon, we take a look at a noun that can be positive or negative depending on the context – and is very relevant at the moment.

Swedish word of the day: en långkörare
The Swedish language has plenty of unique and unusual words. Image: nito103/Depositphotos

Swedish is full of interesting compound words that describe a specific thing or concept, and 'en långkörare' is one of them. It can be broken down into two components: 'lång' (long) and 'körare', which means something like 'driver' or 'runner', from the verb 'att köra'. 

'Att köra' is a very versatile verb. While it sometimes means 'drive' in a literal sense (att köra en bil – to drive a car), its purpose is often simply to signify momentum. This is clear in expressions such as 'Nu kör vi!' ('off we go!') and 'klara, färdiga, kör!' (Ready, set, go!), where 'köra' implies action rather than being linked to a specific type of movement or direction.

The noun 'långkörare' is commonly used to describe a TV programme that ran for several years with multiple seasons, or occasionally a long-running theatre production. In this context, it's usually a positive thing since it shows the ongoing popularity of the show.

But långkörare has another meaning which makes it particularly appropriate today. When you're talking about business or political negotiations, the term refers to drawn-out dealings, or an issue that crops up time and time again. An English translation would be something like 'a long-running issue' or 'long-running saga'

Exactly how long something has to take for it to be worthy of the term depends on the issue, but the key is that it lasts longer than is either necessary or desirable.

For example, Sweden's parliament reconvenes on Monday and begins the road towards forming a government. After an election where one bloc or party has a majority, this is relatively straightforward, but the September 9th election left the two main blocs separated by only one seat.

This leaves neither of them able to form a government alone, and nor is either group ready to collaborate with the next largest group, the far-right Sweden Democrats. So unless a compromise can be found quickly, the process is likely to be 'en långkörare', with some experts saying it could be months before Sweden has a government.

Examples:

Förhoppningsvis blir det inte någon långkörare

Hopefully it won't become a long-running saga

Den främsta långköraren i svensk TV är förmodligen Rederiet

The biggest long-running series in Swedish TV is probably Rederiet (a 318-series soap opera)

Do you have a favourite Swedish word you'd like to nominate for our word of the day series? Get in touch by email, or Members of The Local can leave a comment below.

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

​​Swedish word of the day: ockerhyra

A word of the day which makes strange use of usury.

​​Swedish word of the day: ockerhyra

Ocker is the Swedish word for usury, and not the Australian for someone who “speaks and acts in a rough and uncultivated manner, using Strine, a broad Australian accent” for the Aussies out there who might recognise the term. 

Usury, of course, is when a lender makes monetary loans which unfairly enrich them. The term is used either in a moral sense, then as a condemnation of taking advantage of others’ misfortune, or in a strictly legal sense, where ocker refers to the crime of charging a higher interest rate for a loan than that which is allowed by the law. You might know an individual who does that not as a usurer, but a loan shark

But ockerhyra has nothing to do with loans or loansharks, at least not directly. The shark, however, might still be there, as you will see.

Hyra simply means ‘rent’ – in this case the rent you pay for an apartment or any other rental property. So ockerhyra means ‘usury rent’, but how can a rent be usurious? Well, it cannot since it is not a loan. What instead is meant here, is at least part of the moral sense of the word ‘usury’, whereby someone is taking advantage of another’s situation. 

Someone setting an andrahandshyra, a second hand rent, which is unreasonably high, would be setting an ockerhyra. This is a topic which The Local has previously dealt with, and there are instances to get help with that. The main reason people can get away with this is because many are desperate to find a place in the city, often Stockholm, and therefore will not alert the authorities. But also, owing to the fact that it is not a punishable crime, all that might happen is that the person subletting their place for more than is reasonable might be forced to pay some money back.

Furthermore, the word ockerhyra does not necessarily imply this type of scenario, it can also be used to generally complain about rents being too high. And many do complain about this.

Do you feel a bit upset about the sometimes absurd rents in Stockholm or in another city? Why not make use of the word ockerhyror in a conversation on the topic?

Just remember that the word is quite strong, so try not to accuse a friend of charging an ockerhyra – might be safer to just question whether they are charging a bit much. Good luck!

Example sentences:

Alltså, det är verkligen ockerhyror på nybyggnationer! Jag är sååå trött på den här skiten.

I mean come on, the rents on new builds are outrageous! I’m sick and tired of this shit.

Duncan, varför tar du ockerhyra på stället du hyr ut i andrahand?

Duncan, why are you charging an exaggerated rent on the place you’re subletting?

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.

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