Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fika småpratar 2: A naughty word

JenniferSome while back, when my officemate S. and I were the last ones to leave fika, I dropped the F-bomb on him. Yes, there is an F-bomb in Swedish, but it's not what you think it is—the English F-word, here in Sweden, is nearly meaningless, and is used by parents in front of their children, and by teeny-bops in front of their grandparents. This constant and casual use has two effects on the poor English speaker: first, she becomes quite inured to hearing the F-word; second, and much worse, it robs her of a precious descriptor. V. and I were commiserating about something truly horrible that the GenBank repository for DNA sequences had changed about their file formats, and I used the F-word to describe them. He didn't react at all.

The Swedish F-bomb is not an equivalent to the English F-word, it just starts with the letter F. I said this word to S. at that long-ago fika for a reason that was relevant at the time, I promise you. His reaction was most rewarding: he blushed, and actually stuttered. "Well, I didn't expect you to know that word," he said later, "and I certainly didn't expect you to use it in the definite form."

So what is the Swedish F-bomb? Here's an ad, facing the street, for a play put on by the Uppsala Players last fall. The Swedish F-bomb is the word after "bitter" (which means bitter) and it appears here in the definite form (as indicated by the letter 'n' at the end of it), so that you too can shock any Swedes you know. This display caused what could be considered protest—two people wrote to the newspaper to complain.

By the way, I finally added the picture of Joe and half of me from the TV coverage of the bandy game... see the post below.

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