Something Swedish

Awkward & Offensive Language Mishap # 2


Not as offensive or awkward as #1, but too many mishaps in one week to ignore!

I’ve come to a language crossroad. This week I have been tongue tied and confused, making funny mistake after mistake in both Swedish and English. It feels like a speed bump, having learned so much so quickly, maybe I am at my brains temporary capacity.

  • So, while reading a Swedish children’s book out loud in English,I came across the word bajspåsar and kept nonchalantly reading it as “Blueberry pie.” While blåbärspaj is a tasty treat, “bajspåsar is certainly the opposite. If you read this post you will remember that “Bajs” means poop. The word that I was translating out loud meant poop-bag … as in the kind you bring with you when you  walk a dog. “When I bring my dog for a walk I make sure to have a blueberry pie in my pocket” doesn’t make sense but my brain really couldn’t understand poop-bag, two words I know but have never combined. I might never be able to order a blåbärspaj from a cafe again.

  • In class we were discussing clothing and whether it fits or not. The teacher asked “Är dina skor för stora” which I understood as “Är dina skor förstår?” In text these look so different but in speech they sound very similar. Instead of hearing, “Are your shoes too big?” I could have sworn my teacher was asking “Are your shoes understanding?”
  • As a friend was asking for a cigarette lighter in Swedish I misunderstood and thought she asked for teeth, which obviously boggled my mind. “kan jag ha tändaren” and “kan jag ha tänderna” are just too similar for me to ignore or understand, so after a stifled giggle I asked how to say lighter in Swedish and pointed out how similar the words are. If I was working as a dental assistant in Sweden I would certainly be talking about lighters all day.

Many people have jokingly warned me to not forget my English while I learn Swedish. Well, it seems that it has begun.

  • My husband and I hi-five a lot… we just like to, okay? The other day I turned to him and blurted out “Give me a hand-slap!!” Apparently my brain couldn’t manage the word “hi-five.” Not only did I call it a hand slap (Which I think is very Swedish by the way, joining two descriptive words to make a new word), I somehow managed to add a German twist to it and said “hand SCHLAPP.” Yep, there goes my English- right out de window.
  • Two days later I was trying to tell my husband that I couldn’t hear him because I had my ear plugs in. Except I called them ear muffins. Yep.

Meanwhile I found my two new favorite Swedish words that make me laugh whenever I think or hear them.

  • Ett handfat  means a bathroom sink, which translates roughly to “hand bowl” but when I see the word I can’t help but to imagine “hand fat,” as if all the disgusting fat from your hands can be washed away, which is just such a perfectly grotesque image for a sink that it made me laugh in class.
  • En sköldpadda is a turtle, which literally means “shield toad.” Now I think of turtle shells as shields and turtles as warrior toads. Maybe the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are actually toads? Nothing awkward or offensive about that, but it has just stuck with me.

Too many words swimming around in this brain, but so many more to learn- I think this is going to get much messier very soon.

Illustrations made by a bored Megalagom.


13 thoughts on “Awkward & Offensive Language Mishap # 2

  1. Frankly, Meg, I think “ear muffins” is a perfectly reasonable and comfortable description! And I also love the illustration — so you are an artist as well as a writer!

  2. HAHA!!! so true! everything gets all jumbled up. the best is when i’m talking with my mom & can’t think of an english word and have to describe the word, or i just say something in swedish without realizing it. as for the mixing up the swedish words, it’ll get better. keep plugging on! you’re doing great, it sounds!

  3. Ha ha – I love your turtle drawing!! This post is so very interesting!! I can’t imagine trying to learn another language. This sounds crazy, but I’ve found myself even forgetting a lot of “American” English terms, as I’ve started using more English vocabulary that the Brits use. I never imagined something like this could happen.

    • I assume it would be the same thing as moving from New York to Texas! The accent, the slang, vocabulary, idioms… Language is very interesting that way!

  4. Thank God I have not begun forgetting English. If that happens I will be in deep bajs.

  5. Hi,
    First of all i would just like to say that i found your blog by mistake but are very much liking it 🙂

    Second, i just read your post about Bokrean (3 march) and i got to think of some books that i want to recommend to you: they are called Plupp – books and… (it’s very hard for me to explain things in an understandable way in english so i put in a link to wikipedia and a picture-link.

    Wiki: (it’s in swedish, hope that’s ok)

    Anyway, thank you for writing a very interesting, funny blog..! 🙂

  6. I love words that are descriptions- my favorite French word, for instance, is “tournesol” for sunflower, since they turn toward the sun. 🙂 Sounds like you are getting submersed in the language! Really cool- Swedish is a language I’d love to learn.

    • Ah, perfect word! I am really enjoying the description words as well- I think it is a pretty effective way to form a word! I’m sure we must have some in English as well…? I can’t think of any though.

  7. Pingback: Awkward & Offensive Language Mishaps # 3 « Something Swedish

  8. Pingback: How Swedish are you? | Something Swedish

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