Swedish word of the day: bajamaja

Swedish word of the day: bajamaja
Didn't ABBA once write a song about portaloos? Oh wait, that was Waterloo. Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Today's word of the day is fun to say, less fun to use.

Our word of the day today is bajamaja. The plural of bajamaja is bajamajor. Note that, in Swedish, the letter “j” is pronounced like “y”, so this is unfortunately not pronounced in the same way as the English word “major” – a more accurate pronounciation could be something like bye-a-my-a for the singular, or bye-a-my-or for the plural.

Bajamaja is the Swedish word for a portable chemical toilet, like those often found at music festivals or other temporary outdoor events. These toilets are known in British English as a “portaloo”, and in American English as a “porta-potty”. Both “portaloo” and “porta-potty” are brand names which have now become the word used to describe all chemical toilets, and the Swedish word bajamaja is no exception.

Although the name was probably chosen due to the fact that it rhymes, it does also have an interesting etymology.

The word baja is a less-common synonym of the verb bajsa, a word you have almost certainly come across if you know any Swedish children, who love to talk about bajs (poo) and call each other bajskorvar (poo sausages).

Therefore, the first half of bajamaja can be translated as “poo”. The second half, maja, is an older term which can still be found in some Swedish dialects, and can be translated as a primitive building such as a hut or den. Indeed, maja is the Finnish word for “hut” and the Estonian word for “house”, which both come from the Latvian word for house: māja.

So, a bajamaja can be roughly translated as a “poo den” or a “poo hut”. Think about that next time you’re in need of one at a music festival.

Example sentences:

Usch, den bajamajan var jätteäcklig!

Ugh, that portaloo was really disgusting!

Vår BRF ska ha rörarbete nästa sommar, vi kommer behöva använda bajamajor nere i gården.

Our housing association is planning pipe work next summer, we’re going to have to use portaloos in the courtyard.

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 – or join The Local as a member and get your copy for free.

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