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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: läslov

If you have children in your life, today's Swedish word of the day is for you. It's a recent addition to the dictionary, only coined in 2016.

Swedish word of the day: läslov
Do you love läslov? Image: nito103/Depositphotos

Läslov is the new-ish name for Sweden's autumn break, formerly known as höstlov (literally 'autumn break').

It literally means 'reading break' and the idea was introduced by the government back in 2016. The goal of the rebrand was to draw attention to the importance of reading and literacy, and encourage Swedish children to spend at least some of the week off reading, in a similar way to the February break which is known as sportlov (sport break).

The government invested five million kronor ($562,000) in initiatives aimed at promoting reading, following declining scores in international literacy tests.

INTERVIEW: 'In Sweden no kid should ever be left behind'

Lov is related to the English noun 'leave', and the link to vacation is clear if you think about 'leaving a place' or the noun 'a leave of absence', In Swedish, lov has two main other meanings: praise and permission.

In the video below, one Swede explains why lov is one of her very favourite words in the language.

Examples

Läslovet kan vara ett tillfälle för elever att hitta sin läslust

The reading break can be an opportunity for students to find their love of reading

Vi har läslov nästa vecka

We have reading break next week
 

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For members

SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: liga

You may have this word in your native language or recognise it from football leagues such as the German Bundesliga or Spain's La Liga. Liga has a similar meaning in Swedish, too, with one crucial difference.

Swedish word of the day: liga

Liga originally comes from Latin ligāre (“to bind”). In most languages, liga means “league”, a group of individuals, organisations or nations who are united in some way.

Similar words exist in many European languages, such as Dutch, Spanish, Czech and Polish liga, Italian lega, French ligue and Romanian ligă.

A league is almost always something positive or neutral in other languages, but in Swedish a liga is something negative – a criminal gang, with the word ligist referring to a (usually young, male) gang member, thug or hooligan.

Political or diplomatic leagues are usually translated into Swedish as förbund (“union” or “association”) rather than liga: one example is the Swedish term for the League of Nations, Nationernas förbund.

The only exception to this rule is sport, where the popularity of international football leagues such as the Bundesliga and the Premier League has lessened the negative meaning somewhat in this context. Fans of hockey will be familiar with SHL, Svenska hockeyligan, and Sweden’s handball league is referred to as handbollsligan.

The history behind liga’negative meaning in Swedish can be traced back to the Thirty Years’ War, which took place largely within the Holy Roman Empire between 1618 and 1648.

Essentially, the Thirty Years’ War began as a fight between Protestant and Catholic states of the Holy Roman Empire, with Catholic states forming the Catholic League and Protestant states forming the Protestant Union.

Sweden was – and still is – Lutheran, meaning that, when they got involved in the war in 1630, their enemies were the Catholic League – or the katolska ligan in Swedish, with its members being referred to as ligister or “league-ists”.

King Gustav II Adolf eventually beat the Catholic League in 1631 at the Battle of Breitenfeld, ultimately leading to the formal dissolution of the league in 1635 in the Peace of Prague, which forbade alliances from forming within the Holy Roman Empire.

Although this may seem like ancient history, Swedes still don’t trust a liga – the word’s negative connotations have survived for almost 400 years.

Swedish vocabulary:

Jag är lite orolig för honom, han har börjat hänga med ett gäng ligister.

I’m a bit worried about him, he’s started hanging out with a group of thugs.

Manchester United har vunnit den engelska ligan flest gånger, men City är mästare just nu.

Manchester United have won the Premier League the most times, but City are the current champions.

De säger att det står en liga bakom det senaste inbrottsvågen.

They’re saying there’s a gang behind the recent spate of break-ins.

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 USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.

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