Sweden's news in English

Editions:  Austria · Denmark · France · Germany · Italy · Norway · Spain · Sweden · Switzerland

Swedish word of the day: ålahue

Share this article

Swedish word of the day: ålahue
Technically our word of the day is Scanian rather than Swedish. Image: nito103/Depositphotos
15:43 CET+01:00
Scanians don't take fools gladly, and that's reflected in the local language. The inhabitants of Sweden's southernmost county have as many ways of calling someone stupid as the indigenous peoples of the Arctic have for snow (almost).
Chief among these is ålahue
A compound noun composed of the word ål, meaning 'eel', and hue, the Scanian (skånska) dialect form of the Swedish huvud or 'head', ålahue means, literally, 'eel head'. 
It requires the correct pronunciation to achieve full effect, beginning with a vowel like the beginning of "elephant" in English and dipping almost immediately into the start of "oops" before hitting the "l" sound. 
See it performed by a true Scanian (who did not wish to be named) below:
Mathias Strandberg, an expert in Scanian dialect at Sweden's Institute for Language and Folklore, told The Local the word probably had its roots in the local eel fisheries. 
"I suppose it must have to do with eel fishing being an important enterprise in Scania, at least in some parts of it," he said. "The eel is widely recognized as a typically Scanian product." 
Strandberg believes the word is new in its current form, as Scanian only developed hue as a common word for head relatively recently, with it replacing ho in the far south.
Hue, he adds, was for some time the 'normal' form of the word huvud over large parts of southern Sweden. 
The phrase can be used as a pejorative whenever someone is performing a task poorly or displays ignorance. 
Listen to Mathias Strandberg explaining Scanian pronunciation in the video below:
Så kan du ju inte göra, ditt ålahue!   
You can't do it that way, you idiot!
Skåne tillhörde Danmark på den tiden, ditt ålahue!
Scania belonged to Denmark in those days, you fool!
Do you have a favourite Swedish word you would like to nominate for our word of the day series? Get in touch by email or if you are a Member of The Local, log in to comment below.
Get notified about breaking news on The Local

Share this article

The Local is not responsible for content posted by users.
Christian - 11 Jan 2019 08:35
Become a Member or sign-in to leave a comment.

From our sponsors

How to work 9-5 and travel the rest of the time

A full-time job shouldn’t stop you from satisfying your wanderlust. The Local spoke to Travel After 5 blogger Alline Waldhem to find out her tips and tricks for travellers who only have 25 days of annual leave.