“We say people from Stockholm aren't really 100 percent. That's because they're nollåttar ('zero eights')!”
It's a joke that would only be found funny by a small subset of people, most of whom live out in Sweden's farthest-flung regions (such as Norrbotten, where this writer heard it on Monday).
Nollåtta, from the Stockholm dialling code 08-, (noll is 'zero', åtta is 'eight'), still functions as pejorative shorthand for a Stockholmare or person from Stockholm, even as landlines become ever rarer.
The dialling code in central Stockholm was changed to 08- back in 1963. Then in 1992, the then state telecoms company Televerket moved those in the wider Stockholm region, who had previously been 07-, onto 08- to free up a new set of numbers for the emerging mobile phones.
Nollåtta today is generally used as a mild insult or as a piece of friendly banter targeted at people hailing from the capital. The noun is often preceded by a strengthening adjective such as jävla (bloody), jäkla (damned) or förbannad (accursed).
Stockholmers living and working in a northern Swedish town might find their colleagues jokingly — or perhaps only half-jokingly — berating them with din jävla nollåtta (you bloody Stockholmer).
If a Stockholmer living in the Swedish provinces dares to give any impression that they consider themselves more educated or skilled than the locals, they should expect to find the words typisk nollåtta (typical Stockholmer) snorted behind their backs, in disdain at their perceived arrogance.
- Swedish word of the day: smörgåstårta
- Swedish word of the day: folkkär
- Swedish word of the day: deckare
Among Stockholmers themselves, the moniker has however become a source of pride in a case of linguistic reappropriation analogous to reclaiming of the former insult 'queer' by the gay community.
Stockholmers living in the regions, or on a visit, might self-mockingly point out some of their big city habits, with the words: “Jag vet, typisk nollåtta“, (I know, typical Stockholmer).
John Falkirk, a Stockholmer working for the Helsingborgs Dagladet newspaper in southern Sweden, even had a column, Nollåttan Testar (the Stockholmer tries things out) in which he tried out stereotypical local things and then wrote about them from his Stockholm perspective.
On August 8, 2008 — or in Swedish dating convention 080808 — Stockholm even held a citywide '08 day' celebration, with dance floors set up outside the City Hall and on Stureplan (as seen in the photograph below) and free breakfast and karaoke in the Stockholm Globe Arena.
Stockholmers celebrate 08-dagen on 8 August 2008. Photo: Erik Abel/TT