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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: tiger

Today's word of the day is the Swedish verb meaning "to be quiet". This word is also essential to one of the most classic pieces of war propaganda in Swedish history - en svensk tiger.

Swedish word of the day: tiger
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

In Swedish, att tiga (“to be quiet”) is a verb (literally “to quiet”). English, however, does not have a specific verb with this meaning, rather quietness is a state – English speakers must use the verb “to be” alongside the adjective “quiet”, to describe this act.

This implies that the act of quietness, for Swedes, is an active choice, rather than just the absence of speech.

Tiga is not necessarily a positive term, and is often used as an order to keep quiet, or an accusation that someone teg (“was silent”) on an important issue which they should have spoken up about.

If you wanted to use the closest translation of the English term “to be quiet” in Swedish, you could say att vara tyst. Other ways of being quiet in Swedish are att inte säga något (“to not say anything”), att hålla mun (“to shut up”, literally “to hold mouth”), att inte yppa (“to not give anything away”) or att hemlighålla (“to keep secret”).

Tiger, the present form of tiga, pronounced like “tea-guh”, is also the Swedish word for a tiger. Jag tiger therefore means (“I am quiet”).

Svensk also has two meanings in Swedish – it can be both a noun: en svensk (“a Swede”), or an adjective (“Swedish”). The phrase en svensk tiger can therefore mean two things – “a Swedish tiger” or “a Swede is quiet”.

This double meaning was used as part of a tystnadskampanj (quietness campaign) in Sweden during the Second World War, where Swedes were encouraged not to discuss any information about Sweden’s military to avoid it being picked up by potential spies.

A Swedish tiger outside the Swedish Military Readiness Museum (Beredskapsmuseet) in Helsingborg. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
 
This silence campaign, also referred to as a vaksamhetskampanj (“vigilance campaign”) began on the 21st November 1941 at a press conference broadcast via radio, where history professor Sven Tunberg – chair of the State Information Board (SIS) – ended his speech with the following words: “Tig med vad du vet – tig med vad du inte vet,” or “Stay quiet with what you know – stay quiet with what you don’t know”.
 
Now, Sweden’s government are once again encouraging Swedes to stay quiet to protect Swedish security. In a speech to the nation on March 1st 2022, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told the Swedish population to “avoid spreading information about Sweden’s defence. Each bit of information on exercises and movements is a piece of the puzzle for foreign actors”.
 
So, although this campaign was developed during the Second World War, we may see it crop up again some time soon.
 
Example sentences:
 
En visselblåsare är en som inte tiger när arbetsgivaren gör fel.
 
A whistleblower is someone who doesn’t keep silent when their workplace does something wrong.
 
Du har rätt att tiga.
 
You have the right to remain silent.
 
Tala är silver, tiga är guld.
 
Speech is silver, silence is golden.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is 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: skärgård

You don't have to spend long in Sweden to hear the word skärgård, especially if you live in cities like Stockholm or Gothenburg where the population relocate to the nearby skärgård every summer. Where does the word come from?

Swedish word of the day: skärgård

Skärgård is, like many Swedish words, a compound word made up of the word skär, describing a small rocky outcrop and gård, which has a number of meanings such as “courtyard”, “farm” or “garden”.

Although skärgård is often translated to English as “archipelago” – a group of islands – the word officially refers to an archipelago made up primarily of small islands, close to the coast of a larger island or landmass, such as the rocky archipelagos near Stockholm and Gothenburg.

Other kinds of archipelago – such as those which are not close to other landmasses, or those made up of larger islands – can be referred to as an arkipelag or ögrupp. However, many Swedes will just use skärgård for any kind of archipelago.

Although the word skärgård doesn’t exist in English, a variant of skär has made its way into the language. The English term for this type of small rocky outcrop is “skerry”.

Skerry has an interesting etymology in English – it comes from the Old Norse term sker, which refers to a rock in the sea. This is related to the Swedish word skära, meaning “cut” – a skerry is a rock cut off from land.

Sker came into English via Scots, where it is spelled skerry or skerrie. Other languages also have this word, such as Norwegian skjær/skjer, Estonian skäär, Finnish kari and Russian шхеры (shkhery). It can also be found in Scottish Gaelic sgeir, Irish sceir and Welsh sgeri.

This also reflects the geographic area where skerries are found – there are skerries or skärgårdar along the northernmost part of the Swedish west coast near Bohuslän and Gothenburg, as well as on the east coast near Stockholm. The Norwegian coast also has a large number of skerries, and Skärgårdshavet or “the Archipelago Sea” lies off the southwestern coast of Finland.

In Russia, the Minina Skerries (Shkhery Minina) are one example of a skärgård, and in Scotland, Skerryvore and Dubh Artach in the Hebrides are also made up of skerries. Northern Ireland is home to The Skerries, off the Antrim coast, and Skerries is also the name of a coastal area of Dublin in the Republic of Ireland.

You may be wondering if the surname of the famous Swedish Skarsgård family of actors – Stellan, Gustaf, Bill, Valter and Alexander Skarsgård, among others – comes from the word skärgård. Although the spelling is similar, this name actually comes from the town of Skärlöv on the island of Öland, and means “Skar’s farm” (Skares gård, in Swedish).

Example sentences

Jag ser redan fram emot sommarsemestern – vi har hyrt en stuga ute i Stockholms skärgård.

I’m already looking forwards to summer – we’ve rented a cottage out in the Stockholm archipelago.

Sverige har många skärgårdar, fast Skärgårdshavet vid Finlands västkust är störst i världen med över 50 000 öar och skär.

Sweden has a lot of archipelagos, but the Archipelago Sea off Finland’s west coast is the biggest in the world has over 50,000 islands and skerries.

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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