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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

​​Swedish word of the day: rackabajsare

A word for hitting hard down your throat or up in the net.

Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

A rackabajsare is either a shot of a spririt, or a hard shot in a sport. You might also see a type of strongly-flavoured (smoked or spicy) sausage known as a rackabajsare in some delis.

Rackabajsare according to the Swedish Academy is a word of unknown origin, despite some claiming its origin to be rachenbeisser in German, meaning ‘throat-biter’. Although that might be possible, there are also many other potential origins. 

Like so many other Swedish words, rackabajsare contains the Swedish word for ‘poo’, bajsa. A bajsare would be ‘a person who poos’, and herein lies the crux, because the word racka can have more than a few things to do with poo.

Rackare today is used much in the same way as ‘rascal’ is, but it was not always so, rackare used to be much harsher. It used to mean something more like a ‘scoundrel’, and then somewhere in the 1800s this meaning began to shift and become weaker. 

You may think that this racka is related to the racka in byracka, which means ‘mutt’ or ‘mongrel’. The origin for that racka is the Old Norse rakke, which also has an unknown origin and meaning, though some claim it is a word for ‘dog’. This would give us ‘dog pooer’, which really makes no sense, so this is most likely not the racka we are looking for. 

Another, but now archaic, meaning of rackare was ‘a person whose profession it is to remove dirt and the like [as in poo] from streets and outhouses.’ If the word order was reversed, as in bajsrackare (poo-cleaner), this could be the original meaning, but it seems unlikely.

Racka could also be another way of writing rak meaning ‘straight’, here in the sense as in ‘to the point’ or ‘straight away without thinking about it’, which could then mean something like ‘going straight to the shit’, which could work for both meanings of rackabajsare, ‘a shot of a spirit’ and ‘a hard shot in any sport’. 

There is however yet another couple of confounding meanings of racka. A now archaic meaning of ‘running about’ could give us something like ‘a disorderly hit or shot’. And then there is the perhaps most interesting one. It turns out that racka used to be another way of saying ‘arrack’, the Southeast Asian spirit. This would really explain the first meaning of rackabajsare, ‘a shot of a spirit,’ but it still leaves us with questions as to the second meaning. 

Alas, there is no clear answer to be found! That’s just the way it is sometimes. But though we are unfortunately unable to provide you with the original meaning of rackabajsare, we can leave you a few examples of how to use the word in everyday conversation. 

Example sentences:

Ska vi ta en liten rackabajsare, eller vad säger du?

Should we have a cheeky little shot, what do you say?

Åh jävlar vilken rackabajsare!

Bloody hell, what a canon of a shot! 

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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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: dryg

The story of long-lasting dishwashing liquid via a 14th century manuscript, the Swedish word for 'queen', and someone acting a little bit cocky.

Swedish word of the day: dryg

Dryg has two meanings in Swedish, perhaps three:

1. Something that lasts, like concentrated dish soap.

2. To be cocky or haughty.

3. Just about or a little more than – as in drygt en halvtimma, “just about half an hour”. 

The relation of the two first meanings is actually interesting, and connected to the Swedish for queen. Dryg in the sense “something that lasts” is the oldest. Svensk ordbok, the dictionary of the Swedish Academy, traces it back to the latter half of the 14th century and the Old Swedish parchment hagiography, the Codex Bureanus, one of the oldest manuscripts in Swedish.

You might ask, what in the name of the Lord is a hagiography? Well, the name of the Lord would be proper here, as a hagiography is a text about the lives of saints. You could call it a sort of legend of the saints, which is what it is called in Swedish, a legendarium. The text is called Bureanus simply because it was gifted to a certain Johannes Bureus in 1634. Bureus later donated it to the National Archives, but today it resides at the Royal Library. 

In the Codex Bureanus, dryg appears as drygher ‘durable, who is enough’. This word is itself related to drott, which is even older, dating to at least the 11th century. A drott was an Old Norse lord with his own court. It is not hard to see the reasoning behind linking the meaning ‘durable’ or ‘lasting’ with the title of a lord. 

Drott is found on rune stones in the runic form trutin, it morphs to Old Swedish drotin, and here, the Swedes among you might immediately see where this is going. Have you ever wondered why ‘queen’ is drottning in Swedish, whereas ‘king’ and kung are nearly identical? This is why. 

This could perhaps also be why dryg in the second sense exists. Who better than a queen to think herself better than others?

But there is yet another possibility. Moving backwards in time the word drótt means ‘(the king’s) warrior retinue’. Perhaps the attitude of the king’s warrior retinue was drygt? In the Gothic that predates it the word driugan meant to ‘do military service’. 

Think of that the next time you use your dryga diskmedel – that is concentrated washing-up liquid. And be advised that the primary meaning of dryg is for a person who is acting arrogantly.

Example sentences:

Hur kan man vara så dryg?

How can one be so haughty?

Jag älskar det här diskmedlet, det är sååå drygt!

I love this washing-up liquid, it’s sooo concentrated!

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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