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False Cognates in Swedish

I'm a great admirer of the website put together by Anne and Johan Santesson, which has a page on false cognates in Dutch for Swedish speakers. I emailed them expressing my wish that such a page existed for English speakers learning Swedish. They suggested that I start one.

I'm not advanced enough in Swedish to have caught many yet, so I ask you guys to fill in the blanks. Email me and explain the word in Swedish, what you would think it means and what it really means.

False Friends/Falska Vänner

Stories About False Cognates

You can't imagine how much fun there can be to read
Swedish-English/English-Swedish translations 8-) Here are a few examples
... I'll try to explain the confusion.

President of Swedish company at a international meeting: "Next year i will
have to fock 78 people,mostly women" ("focka" means "fire")

President of Swedish company at the opening of a trade show: "I now declare
this mess open" (trade show = "mässa")

And a teacher I had myself that was visiting England with his class, they
should present themself for the class in the school they were visiting and
started the presentation with "Hello, we are from the Swedish fuck school
..." This is said to have made the two classes roll around on floor
laughing (the expression "fack skola" in Swedish means "vocational school"
at least according to my dictionary).
Contributed by Jan Erik Moström


coffee/caffeine - The vowels are the other way round in Swedish: the
drink is "kaffe", and the chemical is "koffein".

 fart/fart - You're right, "a fart" in English is "en fis" in Swedish.
The true cognate is "fjärt", but that's rather old-fashioned. Speed
bumps are sometimes called "farthinder" in Swedish, believe it or not

lust/lust - Nobody says "Jag har lust till att se dig" in Swedish.
"Jag har lust att se dig"
is grammatically correct but sounds a bit strange, because it really
means "I feel like seeing you." The idiomatic translation of "I want to
see you" is simply "Jag vill se dig", but that's only true if I literally want to have a look at you! It's more likely that I want to meet you, which is "Jag vill träffa dig".

To say that "lust is desire" is dangerous, because the English and
Swedish usages don't
overlap. "Jag har lust att göra det" _could_ mean "I desire to do it",
but only in a
very weak sense - "desire" in English has connotations of sensuality -
and that's "lusta" in
Swedish.. "A Streetcar Called Desire" is called "Linje lusta" in Sweden.

 mil/mile - A Swedish mile ("en mil") is ten kilometres, or 6.2 English

student - Johan Anglemark is right. "En student" almost always means a
college or university student. Students in other schools are "elever".
"Studerande" is a more neutral form, which can be used as a title (you
can give your occupation as "studerande" or "student", but hardly as
"elev").  When you say "pupil" in English, you generally say "elev" in
Swedish, while English "student" can be  "elev", "student" or
"studerande" depending on context.

The meaning you cite, "a graduate" is used only about people who have
just graduated from high school ("gymnasium").

Oh, and when you're talking about the pupil of the eye, the Swedish word
is "pupill".

- Magnus Olsson, 8/97

Get that English outta yer Swedish!

Thanks for contributions and corrections to: Bruce Brolsma, Anton Scott Goustin, Jürgen Stuber, Robbin Battison, Magnus Olsson, and Patric Lundberg of the Swede-L list, Torsten Lif of the hpv list and Oliver D. Iberien, of whose linguistic abilities I am very envious.

When in home, act as the homans do...

Last modified on 7/15/98

I used to update something on this site about every two weeks. Unfortunately, things are probably going to be mothballed for a while due to a hellacious flareup of Repetitive Strain Injury. I have voice recognition, but it's not too good for me to spend much time on the computer in either case. I still love hearing your feedback about the site, it's just going to take me longer to reply or implement changes. So keep them cards and letters coming!