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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: brasklapp

This word tells the story of one of the bloodiest massacres in Swedish history.

Swedish word of the day: brasklapp
An ordinary word with a fascinating history. Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

The word brasklapp (brask-lapp) is fairly straightforward to translate into English (or Latin if you want to be that kind of person today): it’s the Swedish word for caveat, a warning that what you’re about to say may not be completely accurate or may have certain limitations.

But it has a far more interesting history.

Brasklapp dates back to a series of events that led to mass executions in the main square of Stockholm’s Old Town in 1520, a massacre known as “The Stockholm Bloodbath”.

The Bloodbath came about after King Christian II of Denmark (known as Christian the Tyrant in Sweden) seized the city and at the urging of Archbishop Gustav Trolle ordered the execution of up to 100 people on November 7th-9th, in revenge for scheming against Trolle in a conflict between two political factions a few years earlier. The official charge was heresy, because, you know, 16th century and all that.

Brought forward as part of the evidence were signatures from a meeting in Arboga in 1517 which sided with Trolle’s rival Sten Sture. The bishop of the town of Linköping at the time, Hans Brask, was among the people who had signed the document, but here’s the twist:

The legend (although its veracity is debatable) tells that Brask had hidden a note, a caveat if you will, underneath his wax seal, saying “to this I am forced and compelled” – that is, that he was forced to take part in but did not support the decision to remove Trolle from office.

Brask’s life was spared, and his legacy became the brasklapp – “a brask note”.

Examples:

Fotbollsmatchen spelas på söndag, med brasklappen att det beror på vädret

The football match will be played on Sunday, but it depends on the weather

Bara en brasklapp: Historien om Hans Brask är kanske inte helt sann

Just one caveat: The story of Hans Brask may not be entirely true

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.

Member comments

  1. Many thanks for explaining ‘brasklapp’. I’ve known its rough meaning for ages but have never used it either in writing or conversation, and always thought it to be bras-klapp rather than brask-lapp. Sometimes wondered if it had something to do with a log fire and a Christmas present or a pat on the head or shoulder and but never investigated further… But now we know. Don’t see/hear it very often though, or is that just me?

    Swedish compound nouns can sometimes be a minefield as to where the syllables start and finish when seeing them for the first time.

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

​​Swedish word of the day: pyttipanna

This word of the day is a lot of bits of leftovers.

​​Swedish word of the day: pyttipanna

Pyttipanna or pytt i panna is a Swedish dish, but really a Nordic dish, as it exists in Norway (pytt i panne), Denmark (biksemad), and Finland (pyttipannu). The word or words supposedly mean ‘little bits in a pan’. Panna of course is simply ‘pan’ as in ‘frying pan’. But pytt, it seems, is an interesting little word. 

Taken as is, pytt has several meanings: a penis (see pitt), a small person (as in liliputian, lilleputt), a local name for the ‘marsh tit’, which is a little bird, or simply small. But all of those might be wrong. The Swedish Academy actually proposes that the pytt in pyttipanna did not originally mean ‘small’, but that it instead might come from putta, a word that today only means ‘push’, but which has the same root as the English ‘put’ and once also had that meaning. 

This would of course mean that the correct translation into English of pyttipanna is ‘Put in a Pan’! While many refer to it as ‘Swedish Hash’ or ‘Swedish Fry Up, and one could imagine it as ‘Pieces in a Pan’, Jamie Oliver sticks to the actual name pyttipanna when he makes it, and that is the recommended way.

The dish itself is a dish worth tasting for reference, as nearly every Swedish school child will have eaten it, sometimes several times a month, during their entire schooling. The dish is as Swedish as any. And there are fancier variations if you wanna go that way – look for krögarpytt. 

As is often the way with words, people constantly find new and at times even funny uses for them. Pyttipanna is no exception. 

Here you can see Swedish journalist Sara Mitchell-Malm making great use of pyttipanna in the sense of someone being ‘pyttipanna-ed’ or in other word proverbially cut to pieces. The target is British prime minister Liz Truss, and Mitchell-Mann also grabs the opportunity to get a jibe in at the Swedish minister for foreign affairs, Ann Linde.

Translation: ‘Aaah, a whole hour of British local radio journalists making pyttipanna of Liz Truss – the evening shift couldn’t start better. You have to listen, I beg you, she makes Ann Linde on German television seem like a professor of rhetoric.’

What Sara Mitchell-Mann is doing here is replacing the standard slarvsylta, another dish used to say that someone is being shredded by critics or opponents, with pyttipanna. An English language equivalent would be the American ‘making chop suey of someone’. 

Before you ascend to Mitchell-Mann’s Jedi level of pyttipanna use, start by making the dish for your friends. There are many great recipes online. Good luck!

Example sentences:

Gillar ni inte pyttipannan så kommer jag göra pyttipanna av er nästa gång! 

If you don’t like the pyttipanna, I’ll make pyttipanna of you next time!

Pyttipanna eller krögarpytt? Vad är skillnaden?

Pyttipanna or krögarpytt? What’s the difference?

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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