On Location Swedish – 9 Nov 2012

121109-ailieHejsan! It’s Ailie here and I’m delighted to be back with another On Location Swedish blog post. We’re into November now and things are getting pretty chilly up here – my flatmate tells me to expect our first proper snowfall this weekend! This first weekend in November still remains quite important here in Sweden, as it is when Alla helgons dag (All Saints’ Day) is celebrated, and many people take time off work to spend with their family, perhaps even maintaining the tradition of placing candles on family gravestones. Uppsala City is also in fact having a light festival, starting from Alla helgons dag, with light installations being placed throughout the town, along the river, and in the parks. It’s really helping to brighten up the place now that the long winter nights have started!

This week’s post spawns from a debate in my Swedish class over whether it should be legal or not to make sprit (spirits) at home. One of my classmates, in arguing against it, said “Det kan förgiftas dig” (“It can poison you”) – a valid point, you would probably agree. However, another friend sat there with a look on her face as if she was wondering what on earth that had to do with anything… The reason being that the verb “att gifta” means “to get married”, and so she had thought the argument implied was that drinking home-made spirits could lead you to an unwanted marriage! Whilst one could say that both end up in less than happy circumstances, it is an important distinction to make. In certain cases, context is everything; the word “gift” can either mean “married”, if used as an adjective (as in, “Jag är gift”, “I’m married”) or “poison”, if used as a noun – although as a noun the word would be accompanied by the article “ett”, giving us either “ett gift” (a poison) or “giftet” (the poison). This is one case where forgetting the article, or using it where you did not mean to, can really affect the meaning of a sentence, and can lead to some very confused faces. Thinking about it, we did find it interesting that Swedes use this same word for love and death – I am beginning to wonder if my language studies are starting to provide me more with lessons on life than on grammar!

But for now, the sun is beginning to set (it is not even 15:30, it’s going to be a long winter), so until next time, vi ses!

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