Folk simply means ‘people’, but it is used in a great number of ways, and in a great number of words. The Local has previously covered two of those words: folkdräkt (‘folk costume’) and folkkär (‘beloved by the people’).
Folk or volk is the Germanic equivalent of the Latin populus, which is the origin of the English word people, the French peuple, the Spanish pueblo, and many more. Folk is cognate with the English, Norwegian, Danish folk, and the Icelandic fólk, the Dutch and German volk, as in Volkswagen, which means ‘the people’s car’, often called folka in Swedish.
Being such an important word, you can find it used in many other words. Here are a few.
Folket is ‘the people’ as in Folkets hus, ‘the house of the people’, a place you will find in virtually every Swedish city or town of some size. It is a place where the people can host events, and where one can go and enjoy different cultural events.
Folkbokföringen is the registry of residents in the country. There you can find someone’s address and much other information – something which is quite shocking to many people coming from countries where such information is much more private.
Folkhemmet, ‘the people’s home’, is a term the Social Democrats created in the early 1900s, which today refers to the Swedish welfare state, but also to the era of Social Democratic dominance in Swedish politics, a time seen by many on the left as the height of Sweden’s welfare wonder.
Folköl, ‘people’s beer’ is the beer sold in local supermarkets which contains from 2,25 up to 3,5 percent alcohol.
Folk seems to be ever present.
Sometimes it just means a group of people, as in Det är en massa folk ute på gatan – ‘There are a bunch of people out on the street.’
Sometimes it means the people, as in the Swedish people or Det engelska folket, ‘The English people’.
And sometimes it can mean humans in general, as in Det här är en riktig folkfest – ‘This is a real popular celebration.’
Vi har inget att dricka. Kan inte du springa ner och köpa några sexpack folköl?
We have nothing to drink. Could you run down and get us a few sixpacks of people’s beer?
Folk har ingen skam i kroppen.
People have no shame.
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.