Yes it is! In case you don’t know, Är det fredag i dag? is Swedish for Is it Friday today? and since it is Friday as I write this, the answer would be a resounding YES!
Why am I asking Är det fredag i dag?
Yesterday, I wrote a post about why you should have ‘learn a new foreign language’ as your one and only New Year’s Resolution. So what better for today’s post than starting a series of articles about words we’ve nicked from other languages?
I’m starting off with Swedish, because that’s the language I’m focussing on learning at the moment. I’ve wanted to learn Swedish for years, partly because my family are almost certainly descended from the Norse raiders who invaded Northern Britain in the 8th-11th centuries and so it’s part of my heritage anyway, and partly because I’m a fan of the extremely lovely Swedish singer Sofia Talvik.
The word alcoholism was first used to describe alcohol poisoning by the Swedish professor of medicine, Magnus Huss in 1852. While likely from modern Latin, the fact that the person to coin the word was Swedish counts it as a word of Swedish origin in my opinion.
A measure of length equal to one ten-billionth of a metre, yes that’s incredibly small, the angstrom unit (Å) is named after Anders Jonas Ångström, a noted Swedish physicist. While it’s unlikely you’ll come across it in everyday use, it’s a handy one to know for pub quizzes and showing off your general knowledge.
If you don’t know that dynamite was invented by the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, all I can say is that you really need to work on your inane trivia. Yes, a form of explosive was invented by the Peace Prize guy! His original name for the explosive was dynamit, and it was intended for use in rock blasting rather than blowing people up. Of course the miltary got a hold of it and the rest is history. It’s mostly fallen out of use due to its unstable nature when compared to modern explosives.
The vehicle of choice for the mods of half a century ago, the moped gets its name from a portmanteau of motor and pedal. The full name of a traditional moped is trampcykel med motor och pedaler or pedal cycle with motor and pedals. Quite why you would need to specify that a pedal cycle has pedals is unknown, although the fact that the trem seems to have been coined by a journalist may explain it.
Probably the most obviously Swedish word on this list, smörgåsbord literally means sandwich table. Maybe they have really specific buffet tables in Sweden?
Bonus round: Days of the week!
You may have been taught in school that we take the names of the week from a combination of French and Latin, but take a look at this:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday are all undoubtedly similar to their Swedish counterparts.
Monday (day of the moon) comes through Old English from the old Norse manandagr. The French got lundi instead.
Tuesday (day of Mars) is slightly more complicated, as Mars isn’t immediately evident in the name of the day, however Tiwas was the Proto-Germanic one-handed god of the Sky. He was equated to Mars in the interpretatio germanica, thus completing the circle and making Tiwas’ Day the day of Mars. The French kept Mars in the name, and so Tuesday in Frace is mardi.
Wednesday (day of Mercury) is another confusing one, however the Norse god Woden was the equivalent of Mercury, so while the French got mercredi, we got Wodin’s Day.
Thursday (day of Jupiter) is one most people will be able to work out for themselves. Jupiter’s equivalent Norse god was Thor, the god of Thunder, and so in English we have Thor’s Day, while the French have jeudi.
Friday (day of Venus) is a confusing one. It could be argued that we get the name Friday from either Freya of Frigg, both of whom are closely related to Venus (the old English frigedæg means Frigga’s Day). There is some crossover of Freya and Frigg in mythology, and both fit the name Friday. The French get vendredi.
Saturday (day of Saturn) is the only day of the week that doesn’t include a Norse god. We had to stick with the Roman god Saturn, while the Norse languages gave it the more domestic name ‘bath day’. Even the French have had to borrow from the Greek sabbaton meaning ‘sabbath’, and so they call Saturday samedi.
Sunday (day of the Sun) is another obvious one, getting its name directly from the sun. Interestingly, the non-Germanic languages refer to it as the Lord’s Day, from the Latin dominica, and so the French have dimanche.
So next time someone tells you that we get our days’ names from French, tell them they’re both right and wrong, and that when it comes right down to it, they’re all Greek anyway.