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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: hoppsan

Here's a helpful word to help make your Swedish sound more natural.

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

When you're learning a language, some of the words that can improve your fluency most quickly are the small filler words. In Swedish, that includes oj, typ, liksom – and hoppsan.

Hoppsan translates as 'oops', or 'whoops' in English. But it's slightly less common, and in the same context a Swede might instead say oj, ojdå, or simply oops

Hoppsan acknowledges that something unfortunate, often unintended and unexpected, has happened; something's gone wrong. But it also implies that the problem isn't a serious one.

It's about showing that there's been a mistake, and not about who's responsible, so you could say hoppsan whether it's you or someone else who's made the mishap.

It has an informal and jokey tone and you'll often hear it said to children in a cheerful way, “hoppsan!”, if they fall over or drop something, to reassure them that it's no big deal.

You'll also hear it among adults too, although less frequently. If you bump into a stranger, it would be more usual to say oj or förlåt (sorry) than the more friendly hoppsan.

Among adults, hoppsan might be a neutral (and informal) acknowledgement of an accident (hoppsan, jag tappade den – whoops, I dropped it) but it could also be used teasingly or sarcastically, to make fun of someone being accident-prone or to imply that something wasn't really an accident.

Expressions that sound a bit like hoppsan pop up frequently in European languages. As well as English 'oops', the French say oups, the Spanish say opa, and the Germans hoppla

The -san ending is specific to Swedish, and it's a common addition to exclamations. For example, hejsan is an alternative way to say 'hello', and jajamensan, an emphatic agreement. Jajamensan has a different origin, but the -san in hejsan and hoppsan probably comes from a shortening of 'sade han' ('he said'). In spoken Swedish the -de ending of sade is often dropped to become 'sa han'.

Examples

 

Hoppsan, det tänkte jag inte på

Whoops, I didn't think about that 

Hoppsan, jag råkade köpa nya skor!

Oops, I managed to buy more shoes

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: foppatofflor

Love them or hate them, foppatofflor are unexpectedly coming back in to fashion. But what are they, and how did they get their Swedish name?

Swedish word of the day: foppatofflor

Foppatoffla – foppatofflor in plural – is the Swedish term for Crocs – plastic sandals or clogs which first became popular in the early 2000s.

The word foppatoffla is made up of two words. The first is foppa, which is the nickname of one of Sweden’s most successful ice hockey players, Peter Forsberg. The second half of the word is toffla, the Swedish word for “sandal”.

Foppatofflor, the Swedish term for Crocs. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/Scanpix/TT

So, what does a famous Swedish ice hockey player have to do with plastic clogs?

The story begins in the early 2000s, when Forsberg was recovering from a foot injury sustained playing professional ice hockey. When looking for a shoe comfortable enough for him to wear without exacerbating his injury, he came across Crocs, which were designed to be comfortable and ergonomic.

Recognising the shoes’ potential, Forsberg became an early investor, securing the sole rights to distribute Crocs in Sweden through his company Forspro. But Forsberg didn’t just invest in the shoes, he also appeared in adverts for them, leading Swedes to start referring to the shoes as foppatofflor.

By 2010, sales of foppatofflor were dwindling, so Forsberg shut down Forspro to focus on other investments – but not before the name had stuck.

Peter “Foppa” Forsberg. The man you can thank (or despise) for introducing Crocs to Sweden. Photo: Erik Simander/TT

The shoes are still popular as ergonomic and hygienic work shoes, particularly in the healthcare sector, although they were briefly banned in some Swedish hospitals on suspicion of causing a build-up of static electricity which disrupted hospital machinery.

They may also be coming back into fashion, gracing the Oscars red carpet and the Instagram feeds of musicians such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Pharell Williams in the last few years.

So, love them or hate them, foppatofflor seem to be here to stay. Now you know what word to use if you decide to pick up a pair for yourself this summer.

Example sentences:

Jag har precis köpt nya foppatofflor till barnen – de är ju så praktiska!

I’ve just bought new Crocs for the kids – they’re so practical!

Gud, är foppatofflor verkligen trendiga nu? Bra att jag har kvar mina från 00-talet!

God, are Crocs really trendy now? Good job I kept mine from the noughties!

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 USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.

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