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​​Swedish word of the day: sommarpratare

Today's word is from one of Sweden's most popular radio shows. 

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

Sommarpratare literally means ‘summer talker’, and the word comes from Sommar, a 90-minute show on Swedish radio channel P1, which is part of the public broadcaster Sveriges Radio. 

Sommar i P1 is one of the most popular shows in the country, and sommarpratare, that is the person that gets to host the show, are noteworthy Swedes, often people from culture, sports, or business. 

The idea of the format is such that the host tells their story, or a story of their choice, and then they choose some songs to go with it. Over the years this very free format has led to some really memorable shows, and to more than one scandal. 

When cancer-stricken musician and writer Kristian Gidlund went on 30 June 2013 he knew he would soon die, and that his sommarprat would be his last public appearance. The result was a deeply moving reflection on death. Three months later Gidlund passed away just a few days shy of his 30th birthday. 

Arguably one of the most controversial shows, with a record 70-plus reports to the Swedish Press and Broadcasting Authority, was by poet Athena Farrokhzad which aired on 21 July 2014. The show dealt with racism, class issues and political violence from what many commentators described as an extreme leftist perspective. One moderate member of the Riksdag, Gunnar Axén, was so upset that he supposedly threw out his television to no longer have to pay the public service fee, a fee which at the time was how public service was financed – today the financing is done with a tax. 

Some other noteworthy scandals include Army of Lovers singer Alexander Bard promoting the use of the drug ecstasy, ending with the quote, “The chemical brotherhood will take over in the future”, author Lena Andersson calling Jesus an authoritarian, and even author and journalist Jan Guillou accusing the long-dead former Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson of having taken bribes. 

On a more positive note was the unexpected hit of chief physician Anders Hansen’s 2019 sommarprat about the brain, which had 2 million digital streams. Hansen broke with format by not telling a personal story but instead sharing his knowledge from the field of psychiatry, talking about the importance of exercising, socialising, putting away your mobile phone, and making sure to sleep well for mental well-being.

To be a sommarpratare is considered a great honour in Sweden. Most Swedes are very familiar with the show, and they often have favourite shows that they would love to tell you about. So it is a great topic for conversation.

Summer is nearly over, the last episode airs the day after tomorrow, but the episodes are still available online. Here is a link to this year’s list of sommarpratare

Example sentences:

Lyssnade du på sommarpratet igår?

Did you listen to the summer talk yesterday?

Har du sett listan på årets sommarpratare?

Have you seen the list of this year’s summer talkers? 

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to 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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For members


Swedish word of the day: bamba

Not a dance, but a place where kids eat.

Swedish word of the day: bamba

Sveriges framsida, the frontside of Sweden, as many call Gothenburg, is a place known to have been voted Sweden’s best city, is one of the most sustainable cities in the world, and also the place with Sweden’s sexiest dialect.

Admittedly, I am from Gothenburg, so I may be biased, but I will tell you that sexy as the dialect may be (and I have been told that it is plenty of times), once in a while, like anyone from any region I imagine, I say a word that makes everyone stop and go, “What is he talking about?” This is one of those words. 

The word is used to designate a school dining hall, but apparently researchers have uncovered no provable origin for the word.

On Dialektbloggen, ‘The Dialect Blog’ of the Swedish Institute for Language and Folklore (Institutet för språk och folkminnen), Jenny Nilsson, a research archivist in Gothenburg, explains that the origin is not clear and that the term was probably invented by schoolchildren. People tend to assume that it is a contraction of the word barnbespisning, where barn means ‘child’ and bespisning can either mean ‘the act of feeding’ (usually on a larger scale) or ‘a dining hall’. 

The Swedish Academy also offers this explanation, where the entry for bamba reads: ‘attested since 1957; short form for barnbespisning’.

Jenny Nilsson further makes the point that Gothenburgers traditionally pronounce ‘rn’ as ‘n’, and that an ‘n’ before a ‘b’ in a word easily becomes an ‘m’ in the mouth. Which could then give us bamba.

Nilsson further writes that the date of origin of the word is also unclear, though it is attested since at least the 1950s. At the time, bamba was probably mainly used in Gothenburg, but after that it spread throughout the region, though the latest investigation into the matter seems to indicate that it is now receding back to Gothenburg. 

In an odd twist, news site Nyheter24 interviews the linguist Rune Westerlund who lives in Luleå on the topic of bamba. He explains that the word is also used in northern Kiruna, a town in the very very far north of Sweden. According to Westerblad it was also at one point used in his hometown of Luleå, which is about 270km southeast of Kiruna, though still in the far north of Sweden (it is a big place). The most logical explanation for this is influential immigrants from Gothenburg, according to Westerlund. 

Nyheter24 also includes another theory on the origin of the word, that bamba has a military connection. The ladies serving the food in the dining halls of the time were well known to have “a predilection for straight queue lines, strict controls on food intake, no running and fussing, and letting the food silence the mouth.”

Combining this ‘military atmosphere’ with Gothenburg’s well known penchant for puns, and BArnMatsBespisningsAnläggning, roughly ‘Children’s Food Feeding Facility’, could easily become bamba. That penchant for puns even has a name, it is called göteborgshumor, ‘Gothenburg humour.’

But alas, the mystery remains. 

The one lesson one can draw from this, if any, is to not go asking where you can find the bamba in any city but Gothenburg, or I suppose northern Kiruna, or you might find yourself dancing the night away to latin rock. 

Do you have any friends from Gothenburg? Ask them their favourite food they ate in bamba and if they can think of any other dialectal words from Gothenburg.

Ha det gött! 

Example sentences:

Vad serverar dom i bamban idag?

What are they serving in the dining hall today?

Man dansar inte här grabben! Vadå, är inte det här la bamba?

You don’t dance here, kiddo! What do you mean, is this not la bamba? 

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.