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

Swedish word of the day: lördagsgodis

Share this article

Swedish word of the day: lördagsgodis
Image: nito103/Depositphotos
11:00 CET+01:00
Today we'll take a look at a very sweet word with a sinister backstory.

Introducing: the Swedish weekly tradition of lördagsgodis.

This word literally means 'Saturday sweets' or 'Saturday candy'. Lördag is the Swedish name for Saturday, which comes from the Old Norse name laugardagr which meant 'bathing day'. Laug meant 'pool' or 'lake' and dagr meant 'day'.

Vikings are believed to have washed themselves once a week, on a Saturday, washing and combing their hair and beards as well. This was actually much more than many other people at the time, and the Vikings' personal grooming habits were commented on in many writings by foreign monks and scribes. Today, the word for Saturday in all the Scandinavian languages comes from the Old Norse word meaning 'bathing/washing day'.

Godis meanwhile means 'sweets/candy', and is a shortening of the term godsaker (literally 'good/tasty things') using the popular ending -is. Godis in modern Swedish is a countable noun, like British English 'sweet' but unlike American English 'candy', so you can have en godis (one sweet/one piece of candy) or två/tio/hundratals godisar (two/ten/hundreds of sweets or pieces of candy). 

Lördagsgodis, then, refers to the Swedish tradition of stocking up on sweets at the weekend. This usually means pick'n'mix style sweets, which you'll find in the supermarket in the godisvägg (wall of candy) as it's sometimes called. Pick'n'mix is called plockgodis (literally 'candy for plucking) in Swedish, or lösgodis (loose sweets). These days, you might also see some health-conscious Swedes opting for naturgodis instead (literally 'natural candy', this refers to nuts, seeds, berries and dried fruit also served pick'n'mix style), but Swedes still eat more sugar than almost any other nationality worldwide.

READ ALSO: Swedish word of the day: fredagsmys

When you first discover the godisvägg. via GIPHY

It's a beloved weekend activity, so each Saturday you'll see many families with small children (and childless adults too!) filling up their paper bags with the sweet stuff.

Cute, right?

Well, this tradition has a very murky past. In the late 1950s, a series of experiments were carried out on patients at mental health hospitals, and these unethical tests were the origin of lördagsgodis. During the Vipeholm Experiments, named after the hospital in Lund where they took place, patients were encouraged to eat huge amounts of sugary sweets in a deliberate attempt to get cavities in their teeth, so that scientists could research the link between sugar and dental health, which was unclear at the time, and how to treat them.

The researchers discovered that there was indeed a clear link between high sugar consumption and teeth cavities. And so the Medicines Agency recommended that Swedes limit their candy-eating to once a week, since this would have less of an impact on their teeth than daily snacking – although pick'n'mix-style loose candy wasn't allowed in Sweden until 1985. Before that, you had to stock up on your salty liquorice and fudge at an old fashioned sweet shop.

Despite its origins in these controversial tests, lördagsgodis lives on in Sweden as a beloved tradition. And it's one that many internationals will learn to love too.

Examples

Lördagsgodis är alltid en bra idé!

Having sweets on Saturday is always a good idea!

Lördagsgodis är ett unikt svenskt fenomen

Having sweets on Saturday is a uniquely Swedish phenomenon

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.
Become a Member or sign-in to leave a comment.