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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: lussekatt

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 lussekatt on a black background beside a swedish flag
Why do Swedes eat cats on Lucia day, anyway? Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Our word of the day today is lussekatt, the bright yellow S-shaped saffron buns on offer on every street corner in Sweden during the Christmas season.

The first half of the word, lusse, is a shortened version of Lucia, and the second half, katt, is the Swedish word for “cat”.

Lucia is easy to explain – lussekatter are traditionally eaten on December 13th to celebrate Luciadagen – or Lucia Day. They are also sometimes referred to as lussebullar.

The prefix lusse- is also seen in lussebrud – the girl leading the Luciatåg or Lucia procession, often wearing lit candles in her hair.

But what does a cat has to do with saffron buns?

The original name for lussekatter was djävulskatter or “Devil’s cats”. This can be traced back to the 19th century, when a German tradition of baking buns shaped like sleeping cats started to become popular in Sweden. Cats were associated with the devil, who baked the buns and gave them to naughty children at Christmas.

Saffron – which was starting to become widespread as a Christmas spice in Sweden at that time – was mixed in to the buns, as the spice was traditionally seen as having magic powers which could help ward off the devil.

At some point, “Devil’s cats” became “Lucia cats”, probably due to the fact that they were eaten on Lucia Day.

But that’s not the only link with Satan: Lucia, along with Lucifer (another name for the devil) both share a common root: lux, the Latin word for light.

So, there’s some food for thought next time you’re tucking into a Lucia bun.

Example sentences:

Vi åt lussekatter till fikat i dag.

We had lussekatter with our fika today.

Vill du baka lussekatter på söndag?

Do you want to bake lussekatter on Sunday?

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.

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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.

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