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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: kontant

Here's a word that you might think would be a common one, but you'll probably use it less than you'd expect in Sweden.

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

Kontant means 'cash' in Swedish, usually referring to physical money (notes and coins) as opposed to card or online payments.

You can use it to refer to physical payments, for example 'restaurangen tar bara kontant betalning' (the restaurant only takes cash payments), or occasionally to refer to large payments which were made upfront, all in one go. If you hear something like 'företaget bjuder 20 miljarder kontant' (the company is offering 20 billion in cash), it doesn't mean they literally have the full amount in kronor notes, but rather that they are able to make the entire payment immediately.

EDITOR'S PICKS:

Similarly, the phrase 'köpa hus kontant' (to buy a house upfront) means you'd be paying the entire cost of the property in one go rather than taking out a mortgage. Obviously that's not possible for most people, who would take out a mortgage and put down around 15 percent as an upfront deposit, called kontantinsats (cash sum) in Sweden.

Kontant can be used as an adverb in phrases like 'betala kontant' (to pay in cash) and 'köpa kontant' (usually meaning 'to buy outright' as outlined above). 

To talk about 'cash' as a noun, you usually use the plural form kontanter. For example, a cashier might ask 'har du kontanter?' (do you have cash?).

But as Sweden increasingly turns away from cash, you're probably most likely to see kontant used as part of the compound word kontantfri (cash-free).

The word kontant was likely a loan from Italian contante, also meaning 'cash'. But a few centuries ago, kontant was also used to mean 'content' or 'satisfied'. These days it's almost obsolete in that sense, but you'll still sometimes hear the phrase 'vara kontant med' which means 'to get on well with (someone).

Examples

Allt färre betalar med kontanter

Fewer and fewer people make cash payments

Du kan betala kontant eller med bankkort

You can pay with cash or by card

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: tacofredag

Today’s word is a modern Swedish national tradition.

Swedish word of the day: tacofredag

Tacofredag simply means ‘Taco Friday’.

If you have been living in Sweden for a while you might be familiar with the concept of att mysa, ‘to get cozy’. If you are not, the number one mys-day is Friday, fredagsmys, or “Cozy Friday”, which we have previously covered. Fredagsmys has become somewhat of a modern national tradition, where the idea is to stay at home, watch a movie, have a chill and nice time together while eating fast food.

And the fast food of choice for fredagsmys is tacos, Tex-Mex style tacos, but with a Swedish twist. You might have seen the large taco section in your local supermarket and wondered. This is why it is so large.

Here’s the story behind it. Around 1990 Sweden was reemerging out of a financial crisis. Swedes were increasingly willing to spend again, and television advertising, which was illegal on cable based broadcast, was becoming a thing through satellite broadcasts from the UK. Somewhere around this time the idea of fredagsmys was born. To sit at home, eating easy to make food while watching television.  

Though crips company OLW was the major populariser of the phenomenon of fredagsmys through a series of popular adverts that started in 2009, the big winners of the new cultural phenomenon were the tex-mex producers Old El Paso and Santa Maria (which even changed its name from Nordfalks due to the success of its tex-mex products). 

Through in store demonstrations of how to assemble the tacos, and a series of advertising campaigns, tex-mex sales grew from 70 million to 1,2 billion SEK over 20 years from 1991-2011. In 2014 Santa Maria released a statement containing statistics from a survey which showed that 85 percent of Swedes eat Tex Mex regularly, and that 55 percent of them do it on Fridays. Though that survey was done on only 1000 people, it still gives an inkling of the popularity of the phenomenon.

So what are the essentially Swedish ingredients on tacofredag? Cucumber, pineapple, yoghurt sauces, canned corn and even peanuts. These are also things that you might find on Swedish pizzas such as the Africana or the Hawaii, or even the odd Kebab Pizza (another Swedish take on imported food). 

As you can see, tacofredag is a widely appreciated and, due to its twists, quintessentially Swedish modern tradition. Invite your friends over for tacofredag instead of Taco Tuesday, and don’t forget to include the Swedish ingredients. It will certainly be appreciated.

Example sentences:

Vi tänkte ha tacofredag till helgen, vill ni komma?

We’re having Taco Friday this weekend, you wanna come?

Åh, jag älskar tacofredag!

Oh, I love Taco Fridays!

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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