Swedish word of the day: killgissa

the word killgissa on a black background beside a swedish flag
Ever found yourself talking about a topic you don't know anything about like you're an expert? Then this word is for you. Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
The Swedish word of the day today, alongside its feminine counterpart, is uniquely Swedish and a little bit controversial.

Killgissa is a relatively new word in the Swedish language, only recognised by the Swedish Language Council in 2017.

Its literal translation is “guy-guessing”, referring to people (often men, but not always), who “claim something in a way that makes it sound like you know what you’re talking about even though you’re really only guessing”.

It it sometimes referred to as the Swedish version of “mansplaining” although the two words have slightly different meanings – “mansplaining” is more patronising or condescending, implying that the explainer (usually a man) knows more about the topic than the explainee (usually a woman) does, whereas killgissning is merely the act of guessing on a topic you don’t actually know that much about.

Another English translation of killgissa could be – apologies for swearing – bullshitting or talking bull.

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A survey carried out by market research company Sifo on behalf of audio- and e-book service Nextory in 2018 revealed that 69 percent of respondents felt that people they knew engaged in “guy-guessing”, with 10 percent saying that their fathers killgissar the most in their family.

Brothers and sons were also high in the ranking for killgissning, with 8 percent and 5 percent of respondents saying that these family members killgissar the most, respectively.

Interestingly, top of the charts for most-killgissande-family members was “my husband/wife/partner”, coming in at 11 percent – which doesn’t rule out the possibility that female family members are also prone to a bit of killgissning.

The feminine version of killgissa is tjejveta – “girl-knowing” although it is not as widely used.

Tjejveta has not yet made it in to official Swedish dictionaries, but has been described as “when you talk about something you’re actually completely sure of like you’re uncertain or ‘guessing’, so that you don’t appear self-righteous”, or when someone dumbs themselves down to be more likeable.

The words killgissa and tjejveta are disliked by some, as they imply that this negative behaviour can only be carried out by men, and that women are the only ones who face pressure to adapt the way they express themselves to fit in.

Conversely, fans of killgissa and tjejveta embrace the words which – in the wake of #metoo – they argue speak truths about gender dynamics between how men and women express themselves differently.

How do you feel about these words? Are they unnecessarily gendered terms for concepts which affect all genders, or do they give an important insight into how men and women express themselves differently?

Examples:

“Det är bara män som killgissar, typ 99 percent av män gör det.” “Sluta killgissa nu, det vet du inte.”

“Only men guy-guess, like 99 percent of men do it.” “Stop guy-guessing now, you don’t know that.”

“Alltså, jag är inte säker men jag tror du kanske har fel…” “Tjejvet inte nu, du kan jättemycket om det här!”

“I mean, I’m not sure but I think you might be wrong…” “Don’t girl-know, you know so much about this!”

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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  1. I think the definition of the English word “mansplaining” is slightly off here. It’s specifically used when the man knows LESS about the topic than the woman, yet talks to her as if he’s an authority on it.

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