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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: utedass

Summer is upon us (yes, despite the rain in recent days across much of Sweden!) and we're taking a look at some seasonally appropriate Swedish vocabulary.

Swedish word of the day: utedass
Swedes are fond of going back to basics. Image: nito103/Depositphotos

Utedass means 'outdoor toilet', from ute (outside) and dass (an informal term for 'toilet') and it is a common feature of the Swedish summer, even today. You might also hear it called a torrdass, literally a 'dry toilet', or someone might direct you to the lilla huset (literally the 'little building').

An utedass looks like a small shed, and you'll find them in Swedish nature reserves and along hiking trails to allow walkers to answer the call of nature. 

But that's not all: many Swedes own or have access to a summer house (sommarstuga), which is often quite a simple cottage, and it's not at all unusual for the utedass to be the only available toilet, since many of the more basic stugor don't have plumbing.

What might surprise you is that an utedass is often seen as a bonus rather than a downside; some families are really proud of them and will make them feel homey with decor.

Sweden may well be one of the world's most technologically advanced countries, but as a nation that's largely covered in forest, and which underwent industrialization relatively late, many people who live there are fond of going back to basics and connecting with nature.

This is summed up in the Scandinavian term friluftsliv (literally 'outdoor life') and is clear from the popularity of isolated summer houses and hiking.

But if it's not your thing, rest assured that plenty of Swedish stugor these days come equipped with modern luxuries including flushing toilets.

Examples

På tomten finns en liten stuga med utedass

On the plot of land there is a small cabin and an outdoor toilet

Att använda utedass är en del av friluftslivet

Using an outdoor toilet is part of outdoor life

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: soppatorsk

In Sweden, if you run out of petrol on the road you have 'soup-cod'.

Swedish word of the day: soppatorsk

Soppatorsk is a slang word which literally means soup-cod, soppa is ‘soup’, and torsk is ‘cod’, but is not to be understood as ‘cod soup’, that would be torsksoppa. Instead the two words that make up soppatorsk have additional meanings in slang. One of the additional meanings of torsk is ‘failure’, which is the intended meaning here. The verb att torska, ‘to cod’, is to fail, or to lose, to get caught. The meaning of the noun torsk here is ‘failure’. And soppa is simply a slang term for ‘petrol’. 

The proper term for what soppatorsk means is bensinstopp, which means ‘engine failure due to running out of petrol’. It is used in the exact same way.

An additional meaning of torsk that you should be mindful of is ‘a john’, as in someone who frequents prostitutes. So you cannot call someone ‘a failure’ by calling them a torsk, that would mean calling them a sex-buyer.  

Soppatorsk is quite common in use and has been around since about 1987. The use of its two parts is also quite common. And torska, as in ‘getting caught’ or ‘losing’ is even a bit older, dating back to at least 1954. We haven’t been able to find out how long soppa has been used to mean ‘petrol’.

A few examples of the use of soppa and torska in the senses that they carry in soppatorsk are : ‘Vi har ingen soppa i tanken,’ means ‘We have no petrol in the tank’. ‘Vi torskade is a common way of saying ‘We lost’. 

Practice makes perfect, so try to use the word of the day, here are a few example sentences. 

Example sentences:

Nä, det är inte sant, soppatorsk.

No, I can’t believe it, we’re out of petrol.

Full tank tack, man vill ju inte få soppatorsk ute i vildmarken.

Fill her up please, don’t wanna run out of petrol out in the wilderness.

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 US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.

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