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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: stackare

Here's a Swedish word to use when your colleague tells you they've just recovered from the flu, or that they had to work late the previous evening.

Swedish word of the day: stackare
Image: nito103/Depositphotos

Stackare means 'poor you' or 'poor him/her/them' and it's a way of expressing sympathy for someone else's troubles. For example “Oj, stackaren!” means “oh no, poor you/him/them/etc”. When it's used in the definitive form, both stackaren and stackarn are heard.

You can also use it in the plural form: de är sjuka, de stackarna (they are sick, the poor things).

It is thought to come from the earlier noun stavkarl (literally meaning 'stick man'), which referred to beggars. Over time, the consonants in the middle got eroded down and the final 'l' was dropped, creating stackare, which also saw its meaning weakened and generalized to refer to anybody in an unfortunate position.

You can also use the adjective stackars, which comes before the noun, name or pronoun (unlike stackaren, you can't use it on its own). For example: stackars djuret (the poor animal), stackars dig (poor you), stackars mig (poor me), stackars henne (poor her), stackars Nils (poor Nils).

As for which contexts are appropriate to use it, stackare and stackars are unlikely to be interpreted as terms of offence, but there is a connotation of helplessness.

So if someone in a position of authority, such as your boss, is telling you about a bad experience, it would be odd to say 'stackars dig!' unless you have a friendly and informal relationship, but if your boss mentions that their children have been ill, it would usually be fine to say 'stackars dem'.

Stackars can also be used to describe more generalized groups and even inanimate objects, and in these cases can take on a meaning similar to 'pitiful', 'sorry', 'unfortunate' or 'wretched'. In these instances, it can sometimes come across as patronizing, so pay close attention to tone and context. 

In the dialect of some parts of Dalarna, mainly the orsamål dialect of the Orsa municipality, the word klajte is used instead of stackare.

Examples

Den stackaren har fått vinterkräksjukan 

The poor thing has caught the winter vomiting virus

Han hade de bästa avsikter och ville bara hjälpa de stackars barnen

He had the best intentions and just wanted to help the poor children

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.

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: sommartid

The clocks are springing ahead this weekend, marking the beginning of daylight saving time and the end of Sweden's dark winter period. Aptly described in Swedish as 'sommartid', here is the history of how the practice came about.

Swedish word of the day: sommartid

The phrase will come in handy this weekend if you want to lament a lost hour of sleep in the morning or celebrate the extra hour of daylight in the evening. 

Sommartid translates literally to “summertime” and refers to daylight saving time, which begins this weekend in many European countries, including Sweden. At 2:00 am on Sunday, the clocks will spring one hour ahead.

In the UK, this period is known as “British Summer Time” – one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time – while in North America, daylight saving time is used more commonly.

The first time sommartid was officially trialled on a national basis was in 1916, when the German Empire along with other countries such as Austria-Hungary, the UK and Sweden introduced the practice in order to conserve fuel during World War I, with the idea being that the extra daylight would reduce the use of artificial lighting, allowing the surplus fuel to be put towards the war efforts.

In the following years, the practice spread to Australia, Russia, and the US, too.

After the war, daylight saving grew unpopular in Europe, especially among farmers, whose schedules were – and still are – dictated by nature and sunlight rather than the clock.

It wasn’t used on a large scale again until World War II, when Germany again popularised the practice. But a few years after the war ended, it fell out of favour for the second time. It only picked up again when France reintroduced it in 1976, in response to an energy crisis sparked by the oil embargo in 1973.

By 1996, the EU standardised daylight savings, which now runs from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October. 

But the future of daylight saving time looks uncertain once again. In 2019, the European Parliament voted to abolish the practice, however efforts to actually implement this measure have stalled. So at least for this year, sommartid will continue.  

Example sentences: 

När börjar sommartid? 

When does daylight saving time start?

Kom ihåg att sommartid börjar på söndag, så man behöver stå upp en timme tidigare.

Remember that summer time starts on Sunday, so you need to get up an hour earlier.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is 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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