Swedish word of the day: Tvångströja

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
Swedish word of the day: Tvångströja
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

This is a metaphor so overused that it has become a constraint on commentators getting their point across.


Tvångströja is a compound work combining the noun tvång, meaning "coercion" or "a constraint" with the word tröja, meaning "jumper" or "sweatshirt", and it means "straitjacket".

According to the Swedish Academy's dictionary, the word has been used in Sweden since 1836, when these useful immobilising garments were first employed to control psychiatrically disturbed patients. 

Now outlawed in healthcare, the garment is only really used in Sweden for fancy dress or as an aid to BDSM sex. 

But as in English, and arguably much more so, it is frequently used as a metaphor for when guidelines, laws, or other external factors severely limit the options available to someone. 

So when the Sweden Democrats' leader Jimmie Åkesson wrote a debate article criticising the European Union in May, he said that EU membership  was "becoming dangerously close to being a straitjacket" (bli farligt lik en tvångströja).

Or when the Dagens Nyheter newspaper wanted to criticise the impact of the Tidö Agreement between the Sweden Democrats and the three government parties, it said that had become a tvångströja for Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. 

Or when Mats Knutsson, political commentator for Sweden's public broadcaster SVT, looked back at the January Agreement the Social Democrats struck in 2019 with the Centre and Liberal Parties, he described it as a political "tvångströja".  


Indeed, the metaphor is so overused by political commentators in Sweden that it should probably be included as a banned word in the style guides of the country's newspapers and broadcasters (and for all we know it may already have been).

Example sentences: 

Feministisk ideologi har blivit en tvångströja i rättsväsendet - "feminist ideology has become a straitjacket for the criminal justice system"

Om du säger säkerhetsordet så kommer jag att släppa dig från tvångströjan - "if you say the safe word, I'll release you from the straitjacket"


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Anonymous 2023/07/26 15:52
Wait, wait, wait... "only really used in Sweden for fancy dress"???

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