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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: ruggig

As the Swedish winter starts to bite, this is a useful word to have in your arsenal. But it is also a satisfyingly expressive word for almost any bleak, rough or forlorn situation or thing.

Swedish word of the day: ruggig
Ruggig describes the sort of weather that gets deep into your bones, or any rough, unpleasant situation or thing. Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

The word ruggig describes the sort of damp, grey day when the cold really gets into your bones. There might be slushy rain, but probably not actual snow. There might be a chilling wind or drizzle (duggregn), and there will be little in the way of sunshine.

It roughly translates as “bleak” or “shivery”, and is more or less interchangeable with the word ruskig (although ruskig implies more rain). 

READ ALSO: How to talk about the weather with Swedes

A Swede might say, “det är lite ruggigt ute” (It’s a bit bleak out today), when explaining a decision to forgo their morning run, or cancel a planned walk with friends. 

It is perhaps most often used to justify spending the entire day inside doing not very much: “När det är såhär ruggigt ute finns det väl inget bättre än att tända lite ljus och bara mysa i soffan?” (When it’s this bleak out, what could be better than lighting a few candles and just chilling out on the sofa?). 

But ruggig can also be used to describe other situations or things that are harsh, unpleasant, or raw. 

A thriller novel or crime series which is not for the squeamish can be ruggig. A book on the prevalence of sexual violence might be ruggigt viktiga (hard-hitting and important), and discomforting statistics on the decline of pupils’ academic attainment might be described as ruggig och otäck “bleak and unpleasant”. 

A person can also be described as ruggig if they are rough, unpleasant and scary. “Usch, vilken ruggig människa!” a Swede might exclaim, in a similar way to that you might use “rough” in English.

Ruggig can also describe how you feel when you are ill, when it includes a sense of shivering.   

“Jag kände mig ruggig, frusen och hade en allmän sjukdomskänsla. (“I felt rough and shivery, frozen, and had a general feeling of being ill”). 

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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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: liga

You may have this word in your native language or recognise it from football leagues such as the German Bundesliga or Spain's La Liga. Liga has a similar meaning in Swedish, too, with one crucial difference.

Swedish word of the day: liga

Liga originally comes from Latin ligāre (“to bind”). In most languages, liga means “league”, a group of individuals, organisations or nations who are united in some way.

Similar words exist in many European languages, such as Dutch, Spanish, Czech and Polish liga, Italian lega, French ligue and Romanian ligă.

A league is almost always something positive or neutral in other languages, but in Swedish a liga is something negative – a criminal gang, with the word ligist referring to a (usually young, male) gang member, thug or hooligan.

Political or diplomatic leagues are usually translated into Swedish as förbund (“union” or “association”) rather than liga: one example is the Swedish term for the League of Nations, Nationernas förbund.

The only exception to this rule is sport, where the popularity of international football leagues such as the Bundesliga and the Premier League has lessened the negative meaning somewhat in this context. Fans of hockey will be familiar with SHL, Svenska hockeyligan, and Sweden’s handball league is referred to as handbollsligan.

The history behind liga’negative meaning in Swedish can be traced back to the Thirty Years’ War, which took place largely within the Holy Roman Empire between 1618 and 1648.

Essentially, the Thirty Years’ War began as a fight between Protestant and Catholic states of the Holy Roman Empire, with Catholic states forming the Catholic League and Protestant states forming the Protestant Union.

Sweden was – and still is – Lutheran, meaning that, when they got involved in the war in 1630, their enemies were the Catholic League – or the katolska ligan in Swedish, with its members being referred to as ligister or “league-ists”.

King Gustav II Adolf eventually beat the Catholic League in 1631 at the Battle of Breitenfeld, ultimately leading to the formal dissolution of the league in 1635 in the Peace of Prague, which forbade alliances from forming within the Holy Roman Empire.

Although this may seem like ancient history, Swedes still don’t trust a liga – the word’s negative connotations have survived for almost 400 years.

Swedish vocabulary:

Jag är lite orolig för honom, han har börjat hänga med ett gäng ligister.

I’m a bit worried about him, he’s started hanging out with a group of thugs.

Manchester United har vunnit den engelska ligan flest gånger, men City är mästare just nu.

Manchester United have won the Premier League the most times, but City are the current champions.

De säger att det står en liga bakom det senaste inbrottsvågen.

They’re saying there’s a gang behind the recent spate of break-ins.

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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