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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: valfläsk

This word has a very strange literal translation, but is useful if you want to discuss politics in Swedish.

Swedish word of the day: valfläsk
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Valfläsk is used to talk about a political promise made in the hope of securing votes rather than being based on sound policy. You’ll hear it from opponents attacking their rivals as well as cynical political commentators.

Val has three meanings in Swedish: whale (when it’s en val) and choice or election (ett val), while fläsk means pork. You can probably guess that valfläsk means “election pork” rather than “whale pork”.

There are similar terms in American and Australian English (pork barrel), Polish (kiełbasa wyborcza or “election sausage”), Danish and Norwegian (valgflæsk or valgflesk) while the Czechs talk about “pre-election goulash”.

Just picture the politicians tempting undecided voters with some nice meat (though sweet-toothed Brits would be more likely to say politicians were proposing something as a “sweetener”), and remember there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

In Swedish, the word has been recorded since at least the early 1900s.

Examples

Hans löften visade sig vara valfläsk

His promises turned out to be empty in the hope of getting votes

Vi kan förvänta oss lite valfläsk i budgeten

We can expect some pork barrel politics in the budget

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

​​Swedish word of the day: möte

The word of the day is perhaps Sweden’s second favourite pastime, after 'fika', and they often go hand in hand.

​​Swedish word of the day: möte

In 2017 Swedish television published an article with the headline, Möteskulturen frodas i Sverige, “The Meeting Culture is Thriving in Sweden”. For a non-Swede that might seem like an interesting and perhaps bizarre headline, but to the initiated it is all too familiar. 

A möte is simply a meeting, but for Swedes möten are something you do at every opportunity. Need to decide anything at all? Let’s have a möte. This can seem like an awful waste of time to a non-Swede, but Swedes are all about consensus. The idea is that after you have consensus you can move forward more efficiently. And Swedish society seems to do that really well. And it does not hurt that a möte is the perfect time for fika, or more precisely mötesfika.

As a bit of history, the English ‘meeting’ and Swedish möte are related, and they are also related to ‘moot’ as in ‘moot court’ or a ‘moot point’, “an issue that is subject to, or open for discussion or debate; originally, one to be definitively determined by an assembly of the people.” That assembly of people was originally an old Germanic type of town hall, a ting, where people met to discuss communal matters and settle disputes.

Today we can find the word ting in the names of the Icelandic parliament, the Althing, the Danish parliament, the Folketing, and the Norwegian parliament, the Storting. In Sweden you still find it in the name of the lower courts, Tingsrätten

The point is, there is a very old tradition of möten in Scandinavian culture. The Icelandic parliament, for instance, claims to be the oldest in the world. Whether the Icelanders can beat the Swedes at the time spent in möten at work is unsure, no statistics seem to be readily available for a comparison. 

Malin Åkerström, the researcher who was interviewed in the piece by Swedish television, claims that the public sector are the primary champions of möten, but it is also very common in the private sector. And möten are on the rise in many workplaces. 

Here it might help to know that in Sweden a möte can also be between you and just one other co-worker to discuss almost anything, so the term is quite broad. Then there are so called arbetsplatsträffar, more commonly referred to as APT, a type of longer, more serious möte that many workplaces hold regularly (there you can almost always count on fika). 

As you can see, Swedes love their möten – so why not find an excuse to stämma tid för ett möte with one of your Swedish friends or maybe a coworker? You might just make their day.

Example sentences:

Bettan, kan vi stämma tid för ett möte?

Bettan, can we decide on a time for a meeting?

Jag blir galen med alla dessa konstanta möten, va fan är det för fel på svenskar?

I’m going insane with all these constant meetings, what the hell is wrong with these Swedes?

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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