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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: jaha

Here's a word that will make you sound infinitely more Swedish, and can be used in almost any situation.

Swedish word of the day: jaha
Jaha is a useful word to add to your Swedish vocabulary. Image: nito103/Depositphotos

Jaha can mean 'really?', 'right then', 'so', 'oh', 'ah, right!' and many more things, depending on the context.

One common use is to show understanding of something, for example if someone says Anna jobbar på Ikea (Anna works at Ikea), you could say jaha ('OK' or 'I see'). Or if someone explains something you've been puzzling over, you might say, Jaha, så det var därför (Aha, so that's why).

Or if you're told on your first day at work vi fikar tre gånger om dagen på kontoret (we have fika three times a day in the office) you could reply jaha ('I see' or 'oh, right').

You can indicate surprise, excitement, scepticism or any other emotion you want through the tone of your jaha. To emphasize surprise, an alternative response would be Jaså! which means something like 'Is that so?!'

You can also use jaha as a filler word to indicate a change of subject, or conclusion of something. For example, if your group of friends has finished eating at a restaurant and paid the bill, and you're sitting waiting for someone to make the first move to leave, you can say 'Jaha?' to indicate that you're ready. In this case, it's similar to 'Right then' or 'Shall we?' in English.

Or after a film has finished, or a conversation has come to an end (or even if you just want to indicate that you'd like it to come to an end!), you can say something like Jaha, ska vi äta nu? (Right, shall we eat now?', or a simple Jaha on its own.

Either way, it's a useful word to add to your Swedish vocabulary for plenty of occasions when you're not quite sure what else to say.

Examples

Jaha, nu förstår jag

Ah/Aha, now I understand

Jaha, ska vi gå ut nu?

Right then, shall we go out now?

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: soppatorsk

In Sweden, if you run out of petrol on the road you have 'soup-cod'.

Swedish word of the day: soppatorsk

Soppatorsk is a slang word which literally means soup-cod, soppa is ‘soup’, and torsk is ‘cod’, but is not to be understood as ‘cod soup’, that would be torsksoppa. Instead the two words that make up soppatorsk have additional meanings in slang. One of the additional meanings of torsk is ‘failure’, which is the intended meaning here. The verb att torska, ‘to cod’, is to fail, or to lose, to get caught. The meaning of the noun torsk here is ‘failure’. And soppa is simply a slang term for ‘petrol’. 

The proper term for what soppatorsk means is bensinstopp, which means ‘engine failure due to running out of petrol’. It is used in the exact same way.

An additional meaning of torsk that you should be mindful of is ‘a john’, as in someone who frequents prostitutes. So you cannot call someone ‘a failure’ by calling them a torsk, that would mean calling them a sex-buyer.  

Soppatorsk is quite common in use and has been around since about 1987. The use of its two parts is also quite common. And torska, as in ‘getting caught’ or ‘losing’ is even a bit older, dating back to at least 1954. We haven’t been able to find out how long soppa has been used to mean ‘petrol’.

A few examples of the use of soppa and torska in the senses that they carry in soppatorsk are : ‘Vi har ingen soppa i tanken,’ means ‘We have no petrol in the tank’. ‘Vi torskade is a common way of saying ‘We lost’. 

Practice makes perfect, so try to use the word of the day, here are a few example sentences. 

Example sentences:

Nä, det är inte sant, soppatorsk.

No, I can’t believe it, we’re out of petrol.

Full tank tack, man vill ju inte få soppatorsk ute i vildmarken.

Fill her up please, don’t wanna run out of petrol out in the wilderness.

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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