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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: maskrosbarn

Today's word of the day literally translates to English as "dandelion child". But what is a dandelion child, and where does the term come from?

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

Today’s word of the day is a compound made up of two separate nouns. The first part of the word, maskros, translates literally as “worm rose” and is the Swedish word for dandelion. The second element, barn, is the Swedish word for child.

So, what is a maskrosbarn or “dandelion child”? The term refers to a child who has a challenging or unstable home life or childhood, but who thrives despite this, in the same way that dandelions can grow through tarmac and thrive in difficult conditions.

You may have heard the term before – there is a charity with the same name which works with maskrosbarn who may be the children of parents with addiction problems, experience violence at home or who may suffer from a mental illness.

According to the Maskrosbarn charity, 500,000 children in Sweden have a parent with an addiction problem or mental illness which puts them at risk, or a parent who physically abuses them. The charity provides support to 100 children and young people per week, such as by providing them with counselling, coaching programmes or opportunities to meet others in the same position.

One former maskrosbarn is actor and comedian Morgan Alling, who had a difficult childhood spent in multiple foster homes where he was bullied and subject to physical abuse, until, ultimately, he was placed with a foster father who accepted him and provided an environment where he could thrive.

Alling has since written a biography titled Kriget är slut (The War is Over) about a his experience of being a maskrosbarn and how discovering his love for theatre paved the way for his future success.

Example sentences:

Han är ett äkta maskrosbarn, han hade en otroligt svår uppväxt men har klarat sig trots allt.

He’s a true dandelion child, he had an extremely difficult childhood but has done well for himself despite everything.

Min skola hade en föreläsning från Maskrosbarn i dag, de pratade om vem man kan prata med när man inte mår bra.

Maskrosbarn held a lecture at my school today, they spoke about who you can talk to if you’re not doing well.

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.

If you know a child or young person who is struggling and needs help, they can contact Maskrosbarn at maskrosbarn.org. If you are interested in donating to Maskrosbarn to support their efforts, you can do so here.

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For members

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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