SHARE
COPY LINK

SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: mula

Here's the next word in The Local's Christmas-themed word of the day series, running from December 1st to Christmas Eve.

the word mula on a black background by a swedish flag
Here's a word for next time you're caught in a snowball fight with a bunch of kids. Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Today’s word of the day is mula – a word you are unlikely to hear unless you regularly hang out with young Swedes.

There’s a long-standing linguistic saying that Inuits have 50 different words for snow – the truth of this phrase is debatable, but what can be said for certain is that Swedes have lots of different words for mula.

Mula does not have a direct English translation – it is best described as the act of rubbing snow into someone else’s face. It is also the Swedish word for a mule (the offspring of a female horse and a male donkey) but this article will discuss the former definition.

In a questionnaire carried out in 2006 by Språket – a language programme from Sveriges Radio, Sweden’s public service radio station – reporters discovered that Swedes have 95 different words for the act of rubbing snow into someone’s face.

Of the 6,000 respondents to the questionnaire, a clear majority answered that they use the word mula when describing this action, although there still were clear regional differences in other words for mula.

Gotland – Sweden’s largest island, lying to the east of the Swedish mainland – is one outlier, where respondents were more likely to say bryna than mula. Värmland, in west central Sweden, is another outlier, with the majority of respondents there most likely to say kryna.

Other popular alternatives to mula were purra and pula, as well as some less common, but entertaining words such as snötvätta (snow wash), snöbada (snow bathe), snödoppa (snow dip) and snödöpa (snow baptise).

Swedish-speakers in the Finnish regions of Uusimaa (Nyland in Swedish) and Ostrobothnia (Österbotten in Swedish, Pohjanmaa in Finnish), also use the word pesa – a Swedified version of the Finnish word for “wash”, pestä. 

There you have it – mula – the word you never realised was missing from your snow vocabulary.

Example sentences:

Vill du leka snöbollskrig med oss? Nej, ni kommer bara mula mig!

Do you want to have a snowball fight with us? No, you’re just going to rub snow in my face!

Tror du det fanns en mula i stallet när Jesus föddes?

Do you think there was a mule in the stable when Jesus was born?

Need a good Christmas gift idea?

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 – or join The Local as a member and get your copy for free.

It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: förståsigpåare

Today’s word is like a know-it-all who actually knows something.

Swedish word of the day: förståsigpåare

According to svenska.se, a förståsigpåare is ‘a person who is well versed in something and likes to let others know this’ or ‘a person who knows something (whatever it is at the moment), connoisseur,; expert, professional, expert; also: person who imagines that this knowledge applies to understanding everything.’

Förståsigpåare has been traced back to 1798 in writing, but could be older. The word is actually three words turned into a noun. Normally turning a verb or an adjective into a noun is what is called a ‘nominalization’. In this case it is three words förstå (‘to understand’), sig (‘reflexive pronoun’), and (‘on’): a verb, a reflexive pronoun, and a preposition. 

The original phrase, still in use today, is att förstå sig på något. Just like Förståsigpåare, this is a common way of saying that someone knows how something works or to have knowledge of something. 

Förståsigpåare is often used ironically, in which case it applies to people who are know-it-alls, and in this sense, there’s also a noun for the phenomenon itself: förståsigpåeri. One can then deplore the widespread phenomenon of förståsigpåeri, where people pretend to know a whole lot about things of which they really do not know much at all. 

But the word is not always used ironically or in a derogatory sense, it can also simply mean a pundit, or an expert. So you can often see a förståsigpåare on television explaining a certain something, like the American electoral college or the delicacies of the Balkans, or just explaining the tactics of a football game. In other words anyone sharing knowledge of a particular something, or who can explain something, can be a förståsigpåare.

Example sentences:

Den där, han är en riktig förståsigpåare.

That one, he’s a real know-it-all.

För att förklara hur elektorskollegiet fungerar så har vi amerikanske förståsigpåaren Marcus Smith. 

To explain how the electoral college works we have the American pundit Marcus Smith. 

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.

SHOW COMMENTS