Swedish word of the day: brandtal

Here's a word that comes in useful when trying to follow politics, as well as during business negotiations, but has no direct English translation.

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

Brandtal can be broken down into two words: brand (fire) and tal (speech).

Tala means 'to speak', and it's a synonym of prata (to talk). There is a bit of a difference between the two: tala is slightly more formal, and often refers to one-sided talking such as a speech or lecture, while prata is more informal and usually refers to conversations more generally. The noun ett tal means 'speech'. 

And as regular readers of this column will know, brand is one of two common Swedish words for fire. Eld describes small, controlled fires or fire in general, and brand describes bigger, usually uncontrolled blazes.

A brandtal, then, is speech that uses fiery rhetoric. You might translate it in English as 'a rousing speech', 'a grand speech', or an 'impassioned speech'. It's usually combined with the verb hålla (to hold), as in hon höll ett brandtal (she gave an impassioned speech).

How you might react to an especially impressive brandtalvia GIPHY

It's actually a relatively new term in Swedish, and comes from the phrase brinna för, which literally means 'to burn for' but is used to refer to something you're especially dedicated to or passionate about. For example, jag brinner för integration (I'm passionate about integration) or jag brinner för fotboll (I'm passionate about football.

The word brandtal is often used to refer to speeches by politicians and activists (it's been used a lot recently to talk about the speeches by climate campaigner Greta Thunberg) but can also be used about ordinary people, for example if a teacher or work colleague talks during a lesson or meeting about a topic close to their heart. 

To give another example, if an actor or sportsperson gives an ordinary thank you speech after winning an award, this wouldn't be considered a brandtal, but if they took the opportunity to talk about an issue such as equality in sport or diversity on screen, that could be a brandtal.

Brandtal comes with some related words, although they aren't very commonly used. Someone who gives a brandtal is a brandtalare (something like 'giver of an impassioned speech', but it rolls off the tongue much better in Swedish) and you can use the verb brandtala ('to give a rousing speech'). For example: Presidenten brandtalade om våld (the president gave an impassioned speech about violence).


Politikers brandtal väckte debatt om utbildning

The politician's impassioned speech started a debate on education

Kaptenen höll ett brandtall för läget

The captain gave a rousing speech to his team

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: ockerhyra

A word of the day which makes strange use of usury.

​​Swedish word of the day: ockerhyra

Ocker is the Swedish word for usury, and not the Australian for someone who “speaks and acts in a rough and uncultivated manner, using Strine, a broad Australian accent” for the Aussies out there who might recognise the term. 

Usury, of course, is when a lender makes monetary loans which unfairly enrich them. The term is used either in a moral sense, then as a condemnation of taking advantage of others’ misfortune, or in a strictly legal sense, where ocker refers to the crime of charging a higher interest rate for a loan than that which is allowed by the law. You might know an individual who does that not as a usurer, but a loan shark

But ockerhyra has nothing to do with loans or loansharks, at least not directly. The shark, however, might still be there, as you will see.

Hyra simply means ‘rent’ – in this case the rent you pay for an apartment or any other rental property. So ockerhyra means ‘usury rent’, but how can a rent be usurious? Well, it cannot since it is not a loan. What instead is meant here, is at least part of the moral sense of the word ‘usury’, whereby someone is taking advantage of another’s situation. 

Someone setting an andrahandshyra, a second hand rent, which is unreasonably high, would be setting an ockerhyra. This is a topic which The Local has previously dealt with, and there are instances to get help with that. The main reason people can get away with this is because many are desperate to find a place in the city, often Stockholm, and therefore will not alert the authorities. But also, owing to the fact that it is not a punishable crime, all that might happen is that the person subletting their place for more than is reasonable might be forced to pay some money back.

Furthermore, the word ockerhyra does not necessarily imply this type of scenario, it can also be used to generally complain about rents being too high. And many do complain about this.

Do you feel a bit upset about the sometimes absurd rents in Stockholm or in another city? Why not make use of the word ockerhyror in a conversation on the topic?

Just remember that the word is quite strong, so try not to accuse a friend of charging an ockerhyra – might be safer to just question whether they are charging a bit much. Good luck!

Example sentences:

Alltså, det är verkligen ockerhyror på nybyggnationer! Jag är sååå trött på den här skiten.

I mean come on, the rents on new builds are outrageous! I’m sick and tired of this shit.

Duncan, varför tar du ockerhyra på stället du hyr ut i andrahand?

Duncan, why are you charging an exaggerated rent on the place you’re subletting?

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.