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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: rötmånad

Rötmånad literally means 'rotting month' – here's why it's an important addition to your vocabulary.

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

Rötmånad is a Swedish compound word, made up of the verb röta (to rot) and the noun månad (month).

It's used to describe the period from late July to late August. Some people might say it runs from July 23rd to August 23rd, but this is based in superstition: others use it to talk about any part of the summer with high temperatures and humidity which might cause fresh food to go off more quickly due to bacterial growth. 

It's much less of a worry since the invention of fridges, but the Swedish Food Agency still issues advice to use cooler bags for picnics and to store and transport food appropriately during this time of year. Taking these precautions, particularly with raw meat for example if used for barbecuing, helps to avoid unnecessary food waste and bacteria-borne illnesses, both of which are more likely in the hot summer period.

You can also translate rötmånad into English as 'dog days', a term to refer to the days of late summer where the long, humid days were thought to lead to bad luck and mysterious happenings, such as sudden thunderstorms and food deteriorating in quality. Of course, these days we know there are scientific reasons as to why these things happen on summer days.

A rötmånadshistoria (literally 'rotting month story' or 'dog days story') is a term to refer to stories with fantastic and unbelievable elements, because of the association between this time of year and unusual events.

And according to superstition, calves with deformities were more likely to be born in this late summer period, so they are sometimes called rötmånadskalv (literally 'a dog days calf').

Examples

Augusti är känd som rötmånaden i Sverige

August is known as the 'rotting month' in Sweden

Det är extraviktigt att hålla maten fräsch under rötmånaden

It's extra important to keep food fresh during the dog days of summer

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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