SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: paragrafryttare

Today’s Swedish word describes when Swedes become too Swedish.

Swedish word of the day: paragrafryttare

The literal meaning of paragrafryttare is ‘paragraph rider’, someone who rides paragraphs, but its figurative meaning according to Svenska.se, is ‘a person who interprets paragraphs too literally, or in an insensitive and formalistic way. 

The word paragraf in Swedish immediately brings the law to mind, as in a legal paragraph, but its meaning in this word more broadly refers to ‘rules’. Simply put the term paragrafryttare refers to someone who is a sort of ‘legalist’. So where does ‘rider’ come in? There seems to be no answer, but perhaps it is supposed to recall an image of a strict equestrian. 

If you are Swedish or if you are a connoisseur of Sweden you will recognize paragrafryttare as capturing a bit of Swedishness, but a bit of research will reveal that it is also a German word, paragraphenreiter. Not surprisingly the terms mean the same thing, and have the same usage. Further examination shows that the word also exists in Norwegian and Danish – and most likely the words have the same origin.

Why then would the Scandinavian countries and Germany share such a particular word? Perhaps the answer might be found in the fact that the above-mentioned countries have a reputation for being efficient and having quite well-functioning bureaucracies. 

And though Swedes have an image of not being known for bragging, the Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson recently described Swedish values in three words, one of them was pliktkänsla, ‘a sense of duty’, which undoubtedly in part was an allusion to the efficient bureaucracy that can be found in the country. 

But does this Swedish sense of duty ever go too far? Is the system sometimes too rigid? Yes, certainly so. Among Swedes, as with other people, you will find those that are prone to excess – and those are the people that Swedes call paragrafryttare

Example sentences:

Hela kavallerier av välrustade paragrafryttare har siktat in sig på det stora oljeutsläppet i Mexikanska golfen.

Whole cavalries of well-equipped paragraph riders have set their sights on the big oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Dom utvisade honom på grund av en löjlig teknikalitet som någon paragrafryttare hittade. 

He was kicked out of the country based on a ridiculous technicality some paragraph-rider detected. 

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.

 

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: soppatorsk

In Sweden, if you run out of petrol on the road you have 'soup-cod'.

Swedish word of the day: soppatorsk

Soppatorsk is a slang word which literally means soup-cod, soppa is ‘soup’, and torsk is ‘cod’, but is not to be understood as ‘cod soup’, that would be torsksoppa. Instead the two words that make up soppatorsk have additional meanings in slang. One of the additional meanings of torsk is ‘failure’, which is the intended meaning here. The verb att torska, ‘to cod’, is to fail, or to lose, to get caught. The meaning of the noun torsk here is ‘failure’. And soppa is simply a slang term for ‘petrol’. 

The proper term for what soppatorsk means is bensinstopp, which means ‘engine failure due to running out of petrol’. It is used in the exact same way.

An additional meaning of torsk that you should be mindful of is ‘a john’, as in someone who frequents prostitutes. So you cannot call someone ‘a failure’ by calling them a torsk, that would mean calling them a sex-buyer.  

Soppatorsk is quite common in use and has been around since about 1987. The use of its two parts is also quite common. And torska, as in ‘getting caught’ or ‘losing’ is even a bit older, dating back to at least 1954. We haven’t been able to find out how long soppa has been used to mean ‘petrol’.

A few examples of the use of soppa and torska in the senses that they carry in soppatorsk are : ‘Vi har ingen soppa i tanken,’ means ‘We have no petrol in the tank’. ‘Vi torskade is a common way of saying ‘We lost’. 

Practice makes perfect, so try to use the word of the day, here are a few example sentences. 

Example sentences:

Nä, det är inte sant, soppatorsk.

No, I can’t believe it, we’re out of petrol.

Full tank tack, man vill ju inte få soppatorsk ute i vildmarken.

Fill her up please, don’t wanna run out of petrol out in the wilderness.

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