Scan Magazine, Issue 141, April 2022

Page 100

Scan Magazine




Top Ten Scandi Words

Ten useful Scandinavian words we wish existed in English Inspired by Danish comedy extraordinaire Sofie Hagen’s skit about her native language’s superiority when it comes to communicating extended familial relationships, we list the Scandinavian words we miss most when speaking English. 1. Tanketorsk If you get your arguments in a twist or blurt out something awkward in a meeting, Danes might accuse you of having had a ‘tanketorsk’. ‘Tanke’ means ‘thought’ and ‘torsk’ means ‘cod’, so when you make an embarrassing mistake, you’ve had a thought cod. In Sweden, it’s called ‘tankevurpa’, describing a thought that’s collapsed and slapped onto the ground, sort of, but there’s something about the cod that’s more appealing… 2. Orka The Swedish word ‘orka’ – ‘orke’ in Danish – means to have energy or stamina for something, be it to cycle up the last bit of a very steep hill or do your homework. It’s most often used to express a lack of energy or motivation: ‘Jag orkar inte!’, loosely meaning ‘I don’t have the energy to do it!’, or simply that you’re not bothered. Recently, the word is also increasingly used as a highly sarcastic cheer. Swedes unimpressed with the country’s new policies might, upon reading more related news, exclaim: ‘Orka, Sverige!’, a way of saying ‘Get it together, Sweden!’

Cosiness isn’t all about ‘hygge’. The Nordic countries have ‘mys’ and ‘kos’ too. Photo: Stella Rose/Unsplash

3. Hygge / mys / kos Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard of ‘hygge’ – but have you heard of the Swedish and Norwegian equivalents, ‘mys’ and ‘kos’? The crucial lesson here is as much about lifestyle as it is about linguistics, as these words are all about cosiness but far more important and commonly used than the English word. There’s the Swedish compulsory Friday activity of ‘fredagsmys’, while no trip to a Norwegian holiday cottage is complete without plenty of ‘kos’. Really, what’s life without cosiness? Admit that you need a verb in your vocabulary for being cosy. Have the Swedish ‘mysa’. 4. Arbejdsglæde / arbetsglädje

Zero ‘ork’. Photo: Christian Erfurt/Unsplash



Issue 141


April 2022

Google Translate will tell you that these words mean ‘job satisfaction’, but the Danish ‘glæde’ and Swedish ‘glädje’ don’t mean satisfaction – they mean joy. The joy of working, or work happiness – why is there no word for it in English?

There’s a philosophical discussion right there, waiting to be had. 5. Ildsjel / eldsjäl What do you call someone who’s deeply passionate about what they do, someone whose drive and spirit shine so brightly it’s just awe-inspiring? In Scandinavia, we call them a fire soul – ‘ildsjel’ in Norwegian, ‘eldsjäl’ in Swedish. Seriously, they’re so passionate their soul is on fire. Can you think of a better, more poetic way to put it? We’ll wait. 6. Vobba The Swedish VAB for ‘vård av barn’ – that’s when you stay at home to care for a sick child, but you still get paid – has inspired a number of linguistic inventions. The thing you do when you take VAB is ‘vabba’, and February, the month when there are so many bugs and viruses going around that parents are at home with sick kids more than they’re at work, is

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