Swedish word of the day: en långkörare

Swedish word of the day: en långkörare
The Swedish language has plenty of unique and unusual words. Image: nito103/Depositphotos
In the first of a new series of articles exploring the highlights and oddities of the Swedish lexicon, we take a look at a noun that can be positive or negative depending on the context – and is very relevant at the moment.

Swedish is full of interesting compound words that describe a specific thing or concept, and 'en långkörare' is one of them. It can be broken down into two components: 'lång' (long) and 'körare', which means something like 'driver' or 'runner', from the verb 'att köra'. 

'Att köra' is a very versatile verb. While it sometimes means 'drive' in a literal sense (att köra en bil – to drive a car), its purpose is often simply to signify momentum. This is clear in expressions such as 'Nu kör vi!' ('off we go!') and 'klara, färdiga, kör!' (Ready, set, go!), where 'köra' implies action rather than being linked to a specific type of movement or direction.

The noun 'långkörare' is commonly used to describe a TV programme that ran for several years with multiple seasons, or occasionally a long-running theatre production. In this context, it's usually a positive thing since it shows the ongoing popularity of the show.

But långkörare has another meaning which makes it particularly appropriate today. When you're talking about business or political negotiations, the term refers to drawn-out dealings, or an issue that crops up time and time again. An English translation would be something like 'a long-running issue' or 'long-running saga'

Exactly how long something has to take for it to be worthy of the term depends on the issue, but the key is that it lasts longer than is either necessary or desirable.

For example, Sweden's parliament reconvenes on Monday and begins the road towards forming a government. After an election where one bloc or party has a majority, this is relatively straightforward, but the September 9th election left the two main blocs separated by only one seat.

This leaves neither of them able to form a government alone, and nor is either group ready to collaborate with the next largest group, the far-right Sweden Democrats. So unless a compromise can be found quickly, the process is likely to be 'en långkörare', with some experts saying it could be months before Sweden has a government.


Förhoppningsvis blir det inte någon långkörare

Hopefully it won't become a long-running saga

Den främsta långköraren i svensk TV är förmodligen Rederiet

The biggest long-running series in Swedish TV is probably Rederiet (a 318-series soap opera)

Do you have a favourite Swedish word you'd like to nominate for our word of the day series? Get in touch by email, or Members of The Local can leave a comment below.

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