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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: tråkig

Today we're looking at yet another Swedish word which doesn't always mean what you might assume.

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

Tråkig usually appears in dictionaries as the Swedish equivalent of ‘boring’ or 'dull', but it’s not always easy to translate directly. Hear how it's pronounced in the audio clip below:

Tråkig is more versatile than English ‘boring’, and is often used generally to describe something bad, sad, unpleasant, or annoying.

For example, if your bike is stolen or you injure yourself, a Swede might say Oj, vad tråkigt! They’re not telling you that your bad luck is boring them; it’s a sympathetic expression, which in English we might translate as ‘oh no, how annoying/sad’ or ‘oh, what a pain’. 

This is especially true in the expression tråkigt nog, which means ‘sadly’, as in: Tråkigt nog finns det många exemplar av ojämställdhet i världen (sadly, there are many examples of inequality in the world). 

But in other situations, tråkig can be ambiguous. For example, if you share an anecdote with Swedish friends and they reply 'det var en tråkig historia' (that was a sad/boring story), you'll need to rely on other clues such as their tone and the general context to work out what they mean. If you want to be clear that you mean 'boring/tedious', you can use the word långtråkig, a more emphatic form of tråkig.

Tråkig comes from an old Swedish verb, tråka, which originally meant ‘to push together/to clamp’ and is related to the words trycka (to push) and tryck (pressure) in today’s Swedish.

Over time, the meaning of this word developed from referring to physical pushing to metaphorical pushing, in the sense of going over and over the same point. From there, it soon came to mean 'to walk/move slowly' and was also used to mean 'to work slowly'.

Today, the verb tråka is still used, but usually combined with the preposition ut to mean ‘to bore’, for example: jag ska inte tråka ut dig med alla detaljerna (I won’t bore you with all the details). 

Examples

Vi läser en mördande tråkig bok i skolan

We're reading a deathly boring book at school

Det var tråkigt att höra att din hund är forsvunnen

It was sad (note: not boring!) to hear that your dog's gone missing

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: pyttipanna

This word of the day is a lot of bits of leftovers.

​​Swedish word of the day: pyttipanna

Pyttipanna or pytt i panna is a Swedish dish, but really a Nordic dish, as it exists in Norway (pytt i panne), Denmark (biksemad), and Finland (pyttipannu). The word or words supposedly mean ‘little bits in a pan’. Panna of course is simply ‘pan’ as in ‘frying pan’. But pytt, it seems, is an interesting little word. 

Taken as is, pytt has several meanings: a penis (see pitt), a small person (as in liliputian, lilleputt), a local name for the ‘marsh tit’, which is a little bird, or simply small. But all of those might be wrong. The Swedish Academy actually proposes that the pytt in pyttipanna did not originally mean ‘small’, but that it instead might come from putta, a word that today only means ‘push’, but which has the same root as the English ‘put’ and once also had that meaning. 

This would of course mean that the correct translation into English of pyttipanna is ‘Put in a Pan’! While many refer to it as ‘Swedish Hash’ or ‘Swedish Fry Up, and one could imagine it as ‘Pieces in a Pan’, Jamie Oliver sticks to the actual name pyttipanna when he makes it, and that is the recommended way.

The dish itself is a dish worth tasting for reference, as nearly every Swedish school child will have eaten it, sometimes several times a month, during their entire schooling. The dish is as Swedish as any. And there are fancier variations if you wanna go that way – look for krögarpytt. 

As is often the way with words, people constantly find new and at times even funny uses for them. Pyttipanna is no exception. 

Here you can see Swedish journalist Sara Mitchell-Malm making great use of pyttipanna in the sense of someone being ‘pyttipanna-ed’ or in other word proverbially cut to pieces. The target is British prime minister Liz Truss, and Mitchell-Mann also grabs the opportunity to get a jibe in at the Swedish minister for foreign affairs, Ann Linde.

Translation: ‘Aaah, a whole hour of British local radio journalists making pyttipanna of Liz Truss – the evening shift couldn’t start better. You have to listen, I beg you, she makes Ann Linde on German television seem like a professor of rhetoric.’

What Sara Mitchell-Mann is doing here is replacing the standard slarvsylta, another dish used to say that someone is being shredded by critics or opponents, with pyttipanna. An English language equivalent would be the American ‘making chop suey of someone’. 

Before you ascend to Mitchell-Mann’s Jedi level of pyttipanna use, start by making the dish for your friends. There are many great recipes online. Good luck!

Example sentences:

Gillar ni inte pyttipannan så kommer jag göra pyttipanna av er nästa gång! 

If you don’t like the pyttipanna, I’ll make pyttipanna of you next time!

Pyttipanna eller krögarpytt? Vad är skillnaden?

Pyttipanna or krögarpytt? What’s the difference?

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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