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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: skyfall

Not just the title of a James Bond movie, today's word describes a kind of weather that most people try to avoid.

Swedish word of the day: skyfall
Image: nito103/Depositphotos

That said, skyfall isn't quite as dramatic as it sounds. It's the Swedish term for 'extremely heavy rain', specifically when there's a lot of precipitation over a short period, so in English you could translate it as 'downpour' or 'cloudburst'.

The official definition of skyfall is either at least 50 millimetres within an hour, which is quite rare, or at least 1 millimetre within a minute. But the term is often used even when these amounts haven't been officially measured.

After skyfall, there's often flooding due to the lack of time for water to drain away, and it can lead to serious damage.

It might come as a surprise that skyfall is most common during Sweden's summer season, often in connection with thunderstorms, and it's a phenomenon expected to become more common due to climate change as average temperatures rise.

The word's origins are relatively clear. Sky comes from the Old Norse word ský, also the origin of English 'sky', while fall is a noun meaning 'fall/decline', from the verb falla (to fall). But be aware that the usual word for 'sky' in Swedish is himmel, which has Old Saxon origins. Sky is still used in some compound words such as skyfall, skyskrapa (skyscraper) and skybar (rooftop bar).

The record skyfall seen in Sweden was when 40 millimetres of rain fell in just 15 minutes in Daglösen, Värmland, in 1995.

Examples

Trafikstörningar väntas efter skyfall

Traffic disruption expected after heavy rain

Vi måste bereda oss för skyfall

We need to prepare for heavy rain

Do you have a favourite Swedish word you would like to nominate for our word of the day series? Get in touch by email or if you are a Member of The Local, log in to comment below.

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: foppatofflor

Love them or hate them, foppatofflor are unexpectedly coming back in to fashion. But what are they, and how did they get their Swedish name?

Swedish word of the day: foppatofflor

Foppatoffla – foppatofflor in plural – is the Swedish term for Crocs – plastic sandals or clogs which first became popular in the early 2000s.

The word foppatoffla is made up of two words. The first is foppa, which is the nickname of one of Sweden’s most successful ice hockey players, Peter Forsberg. The second half of the word is toffla, the Swedish word for “sandal”.

Foppatofflor, the Swedish term for Crocs. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/Scanpix/TT

So, what does a famous Swedish ice hockey player have to do with plastic clogs?

The story begins in the early 2000s, when Forsberg was recovering from a foot injury sustained playing professional ice hockey. When looking for a shoe comfortable enough for him to wear without exacerbating his injury, he came across Crocs, which were designed to be comfortable and ergonomic.

Recognising the shoes’ potential, Forsberg became an early investor, securing the sole rights to distribute Crocs in Sweden through his company Forspro. But Forsberg didn’t just invest in the shoes, he also appeared in adverts for them, leading Swedes to start referring to the shoes as foppatofflor.

By 2010, sales of foppatofflor were dwindling, so Forsberg shut down Forspro to focus on other investments – but not before the name had stuck.

Peter “Foppa” Forsberg. The man you can thank (or despise) for introducing Crocs to Sweden. Photo: Erik Simander/TT

The shoes are still popular as ergonomic and hygienic work shoes, particularly in the healthcare sector, although they were briefly banned in some Swedish hospitals on suspicion of causing a build-up of static electricity which disrupted hospital machinery.

They may also be coming back into fashion, gracing the Oscars red carpet and the Instagram feeds of musicians such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Pharell Williams in the last few years.

So, love them or hate them, foppatofflor seem to be here to stay. Now you know what word to use if you decide to pick up a pair for yourself this summer.

Example sentences:

Jag har precis köpt nya foppatofflor till barnen – de är ju så praktiska!

I’ve just bought new Crocs for the kids – they’re so practical!

Gud, är foppatofflor verkligen trendiga nu? Bra att jag har kvar mina från 00-talet!

God, are Crocs really trendy now? Good job I kept mine from the noughties!

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.

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