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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: svinvarmt

Today's Swedish word of the day is brought to you courtesy of the heatwave currently sweeping the country.

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

Svinvarmt literally translates as 'pig hot', and it's used to mean 'very hot' in reference to temperature. 

It's similar to the expressions mycket varmt or jättevarmt (both meaning 'very hot'), but svin- is a much more colloquial or informal prefix than jätte-, so you could also translate it as English 'bloody'.

Beginner Swedish language learners might be confused because varm looks like the English word 'warm'. They share linguistic roots, but in English 'warm' is less intense. For example, compare hot chocolate and varm choklad, whereas 'warm chocolate' in English sounds more like a chocolate bar that's started to melt in the sun.

We've written svinvarmt ending in 't', because you'll most likely hear it in a sentence like 'oj det är svinvarmt idag!' (wow, it's boiling hot today!), in which case svinvarmt ends in a 't' to agree with det. Like most other Swedish adjectives, and like the adjective varm itself, svinvarm is used with a final 't' when it describes an 'ett' word, and without it when describing an 'en' word. For example: duschen var svinvarm (the shower was boiling hot), but vattnet var svinvarmt (the water was boiling hot).

So what have pigs got to do with it?

I'm delighted you asked.

An English-speaker might make a link between the colloquial phrase 'sweating like a pig', but the svin here doesn't really have anything to do with pigs as such.

Svin is simply being used an intensifier, like jätte- (which literally means 'giant' but usually means 'very'), to emphasize the adjective it's combined with. 

Svin can be used as an intensifier on lots of different adjectives. As well as svinvarmt, another common one is svinkallt (very cold), and you might also hear words like svinbra (very/bloody good), svinintressant (really interesting) or svintråkig, for example. 

When used on its own to talk about another person, the word svin is an insult, most often used about men: han är en svin means 'he is a swine'. But when combined with an adjective, the prefix svin- doesn't necessarily have any negative connotation at all.

Examples

Det var svinvarmt i går så vi tog ett dopp

It was roasting hot yesterday so we went for a dip

Vi satt i ett svinvarmt rum

We sat in a boiling hot room

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.

Member comments

  1. I love the grammar lesson included in the word of the day! It helps to reinforce my online Swedish lessons!

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

​​Swedish word of the day: konsensuskultur

Some would say today’s word describes the most quintessentially Swedish thing there is.

​​Swedish word of the day: konsensuskultur

Last week we covered the word möte, where we mentioned how Swedes are all about consensus. How so, you might ask. Well, some say that the obsession Swedes have with möten (‘meetings’) is emblematic of something called konsensuskultur, the ‘culture of consensus’, a phenomenon they claim might be the very spine of the Swedish spirit, if there is such a thing. 

According to these columnists, you can see it everywhere in Swedish society: in people wearing similar clothes on the streets (H&M etc), the constant möten at work, why the public debate on immigration has pushed voters toward the Sweden Democrats, why integration is failing, the leadership style of Swedish managers, the very idea of ‘lagom’, in every major shift in Swedish political history. Or in other words, basically in all the history and culture of Sweden.

Whether or not konsensuskultur truely has such massive reach, consensus is definitely sought after in Sweden (although one might argue that this is true of every healthy society). 

The idea of konsensuskultur also creates certain paradoxes. In 2015, at the height of the Syrian migration crisis, the Rabbi and author Dan Korn wrote that konsensuskultur was both the reason why Swedes were so refugee-friendly and simultaneously the reason why integration into Swedish society was such a failure.

Dan Korn argued this was not in fact a paradox, but instead the result of consensus on two different issues: one over welcoming refugees, and another over how to behave or not behave in Swedish society.

For immigrants living in Sweden, konsenskultur is not a word you will hear that often, but is is a phenomenon to keep in mind: 

When moving forward with group activities involving Swedes, it is often best to first have a discussion to reach some sort of consensus. 

Similarly, when analysing the twists and turns of the Swedish political landscape, it is always worth keeping an eye open for those moments when Sweden undergoes a paradigm shift, or in other words, finds a new consensus

A good way of using the word konsensuskultur, which might also start up an interesting conversation, is to ask a Swedish friend if they see Swedes as having a strong konsensuskultur

Example sentences:

Sverige sägs vara ett land med en stark konsensuskultur.

Sweden is said to be a country with a strong consensus culture.

Sara, tycker du att Sverige är ett land präglat av en stark konsensuskultur?

Sara, do you think Sweden is a country marked by a strong consensus culture?

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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