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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: i morgon bitti

Talking about time in Swedish is confusing. Today we look at a common little phrase that might seem especially puzzling to language learners.

Swedish word of the day: i morgon bitti
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

I morgon bitti means 'tomorrow morning', but bitti is a little bit of language you'll rarely see anywhere else, so let's explore the history of the phrase.

Morgon in Swedish means 'morning'. And if you’ve been learning Swedish for a little while, you might know that adding the preposition i to a time noun can mean a few different things.

In some cases, it means you’re referring to a period of time that’s still continuing, or has just finished. If you say you’ve been waiting i en timme, it means ‘for an hour’, or if you’ve been living in Stockholm i tre år, you’ve been there for three years: these are completed periods of time, even if the action still ongoing (maybe you're still living in Sweden, but the three years are complete). 

If you talk about something happening i natt, it can mean either tonight, overnight, or last night, depending on which tense you use. There's a bit more information on time prepositions in the article below:

But the phrase i morgon (literally: in the morning) always means ‘tomorrow’, talking about a period of time that hasn't yet begun. Before you tear up your Swedish grammar book, that’s not as counterintuitive as it sounds.

In older forms of English, people referred to things happening ‘on the morrow’, and now they say ‘tomorrow’: these words share their origin with Swedish morgon.

This left a gap in vocabulary: because morgon was already part of the phrase, how do you refer to something specifically happening tomorrow morning? One alternative would be to say something like 'på morgonen i morgon' (in the morning tomorrow), but that sounds a bit strange.

Here’s where bitti comes in. Bitti is a descendant of the word bittida, meaning ‘early’, used in Sweden since the 14th century and borrowed from Low German bi tide, which meant ‘in time’. Adding it to the phrase i morgon specified that you were referring specifically to the following morning, literally 'early tomorrow'.

Bitti, the shortened form, has been recorded in Swedish since the late 1700s, and today bittida has almost fallen out of use. Bitti is also rare, so you're likely to only really hear it within the phrase i morgon bitti.

Examples

Tågförseningar tills i morgon bitti

Train delays until tomorrow morning 

Vi hörs imorgon bitti!

Speak to you in the morning!

Member comments

  1. Thanks for the explanation, that helps me understand the bitti. It’s taken me a while to understand the distinction between morgon bitti and förmiddag, as I just call everything before 12 ‘morning’ in English

  2. Stuart: Happy to hear it was useful, thank you for taking the time to tell us!

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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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