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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Why I’m convinced Skånska is hands down the best Swedish accent

From The Local's archive: After eight years living in Malmö, The Local's southern Sweden correspondent Richard Orange is convinced that the local Skånska dialect is the best type of Swedish. Read further to find out why.

Why I'm convinced Skånska is hands down the best Swedish accent
No other Swedish accent measures up against southern Sweden's Skånska, argues The Local's writer. Photo: Måns Fornander/imagebank.sweden.se
To the uninitiated, Skånska or Scanian resembles a cat seeking attention while trying to dislodge a troublesome hairball.  
 
But after eight years living among the intriguing people of southern Sweden, I have learned to appreciate this much maligned dialect as a thing of beauty. 
 
Indeed, with its lengthy catalogue of denigrating expressions, freedom from the sing-song rhythm that restricts other forms of Swedish, and its sheer energy, I think Skånska is hands down Sweden's best dialect.
 
At the very least, all those dipthongs and guttural Rs force speakers to change their facial expressions once in a while (a phenomenon rarely seen among other Swedes).
 
 
When I first heard talk of Skånska, it was couched in dread. My wife feared that our newborn daughter, growing up in Malmö, might end up speaking a Swedish with a shameful Skånsk tinge (and lo it has come to pass). 
 
From her perspective, with her Uppsala-bred Rikssvenska (Standard Swedish), Skånska is the second most ridiculous of the Swedish dialects (the keening, plaintive Örebro accent comes top, with my wife maintaining that it makes speakers sound as if they have something stuck in their bottoms.) 
 
But when I first heard Skånska actually spoken, probably when I took my daughter to a drop-in kindergarten, I found it thrilling. I was tickled to hear each vowel bent violently to make sounds that probably existed in some English dialect somewhere, but never in such florid combination. 
 
 
Take the Skånsk Hallo (hello). It ends with a vowel combination that in English is associated with being almost parodically upper class, but which in southern Sweden issues from the mouths of electricians and farmers. The cognitive clash this produces is amusing. 
 
In the video below you can see dialect researcher Mathias Strandberg demonstrate how in the southern half of Skåne, every single vowel is bent into a dipthong. 
 

 
In Sweden, having a regional accent doesn't have the same class connotations as it does back home in England. 
 
But it still tickles me to interview someone like Sweden's Justice Minister Morgan Johansson, or former Green Party leader Gustav Fridolin, both of whom have excellent standard English, and then later hear them rattling away in Skånska. 
 
My real love of the dialect, however, came when I started to understand the culture underpinning it.
 
As the Skånsk comedian and commentator Kalle Lind wrote in his brilliant encomium to the dialect in regional newspaper Sydsvenskan, it has a “particularly expressive” idiom, and this is notably the case when it comes to those which describe the idiocy or other annoying qualities of another. 
 
To anyone who can read Swedish, I highly recommend Sydsvenskan's På Ren Skånska ('in pure Skånska'), the series of articles celebrating the dialect which Lind's essay is part of. 
 
Ditt jävla ålarens (you bloody eel offal), Lind asserts, beats out Standard Swedish's din förbaskade korkskalle (you darn cork head). Glyttapanna beats barnrumpa (child-bottom). Din satans klydderöv, he continues, before realizing that there is no Standard Swedish expression for klydderöv, which describes someone who does things badly and makes a mess.  
 
Then of course, there's the all-round favourite ålahue, which means literally “eel head”. 
 

 
My wife complains that Lind is simply ignorant of the amusing and creative expressions that exist in her own Uppsala Swedish. 
 
But I suspect she is deluding herself. There's a revelry in being gently offensive among Skånings, something they share with the Danes and the British but not with more northerly Swedes, that lends itself to developing these expressions. 
 
My big frustration is that Skånings seem to be above teaching Swedish to foreigners like me, so my Swedish accent (well, to be honest it's more of a British accent) doesn't have the slightest hint of Skåne in it. 
 
I can only listen in jealousy when I hear TV gardener John Taylor speak in his perfect Skånska, lightly dusted with his Yorkshire upbringing, as he presents on SVT's Trädgårdstider (Garden Seasons) show.

Member comments

  1. I worked at Handelsbanken’s HO in Stockholm for 10 years. My colleagues admired my command of Swedish, but commented that an English accent was always detectable. Then a guy from Malmö joined the team, and I started imitating his broad accent. Then my colleagues admitted that they could no longer tell I was British.

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For members

ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Spaghettata’

If you like your spaghetti, you'll love the 'spaghettata'.

Italian word of the day: 'Spaghettata'

You may have twirled and chomped your way through enough spaghetti to be ranked up there with the best of them – but if you’ve never lived in Italy, you’ve probably never experienced the spaghettata (‘spag-ett-TAH-tah’).

Garfield Spaghetti GIF - Garfield Spaghetti Pasta GIFs

Is it a party? Is it a meal? The best way we can describe it is as a fun, relaxed spaghetti feast eaten at home with friends.

Informal and often impromptu, a spaghettata typically lasts for several hours involves copious amounts of wine..

Ci ha invitati a casa sua per una spaghettata.
She’s invited us to her place for a spaghettata.

Whereas a traditional Italian meal would have pasta as a first course (primo), followed by a meat or fish secondo, the spaghettata is a meal unto itself.

Pasta is all that’s on the menu, and if you’re coming back for seconds or thirds, pasta is what you’ll get.

party spaghetti GIF by Isola dei Famosi

Because of its humble, cobbled-together nature, a typical spaghettata can be made with the kind of basic ingredients you might find in any Italian kitchen, such as garlic, olive oil and chilli flakes.

If you have Italian friends who are keen to show off their culinary skills, it can be a little more involved and they might want to show off a local or family recipe. In these cases, it can become more like a dinner party – but with multiple helpings of pasta, instead of multiple courses.

You can also expect to see regional or city-based variations on the spaghetti dishes involved. In Bari, for example, you might be invited to someone’s house so they can show off their recipe for spaghetti allassassina: lightly scorched, toasted spaghetti with tomato sauce.

One of the best things about the spaghettata, though, is the lack of rules; the meal’s improvisational origins mean really anything goes, provided you can source it at the last minute or dig it out of your pantry to feed a hungry crowd.

A meal also doesn’t need to be put on at any particular time of day to be a spaghettata: it might be a lunchtime affair, or it might happen on those long, lazy summer evenings and nights – in which case it becomes a spaghettata di mezzanotte (‘midnight spaghettata‘).

Facciamo una bella spaghettata di mezzanotte!
Let’s have a nice late night spaghettata!

While you’d normally have your spaghettata in the company of others, it can occasionally be used to describe a dish you whip up for yourself at the last minute – particularly if you come home after a night out and suddenly realise you’re a bit peckish.

Oddly enough, spaghettata di gelato (‘ice cream spaghettata’) is what Italians call the German dish spaghettieis.

That isn’t a meal consisting entirely of gelato (if only…), but a dessert deliberately designed to look like a plate of pasta, with vanilla ice cream ‘spaghetti’ and red or green ‘sauces’ made of things like berries or pistachio.

Celebration Will GIF

You might think that given how alert Italians often are to the desecration of their culinary traditions, this would have sparked some discontent – but the dish appears to be quite popular in Italy, with numerous Italian websites offering recipes for the dessert (often simply known as spaghetti di gelato).

Maybe it’s that no one can resist a little novelty ice cream – or maybe the laid back associations of the spaghettata simply encourage everyone to be a bit more scialla.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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