Saturday, October 06, 2001

It's peculiar how different cultures handle words, feel about them, and even stranger, how they incorporate words from other cultures.

For instance, we just watched ''Tillsammens'' (Together), a movie that came out last year and was probably the most popular Swedish-made movie over the past 12 months. In short, it's about people living in a group house in Stockholm in 1975. The movie goes to great pains to accurately recreate the past (the husband was extremely impressed that they found the proper beer cans, for instance). We hadn't seen it because I really wanted to see it with English subtitles, but we could only find DVDs with the usual Nordic subtitles - I finally said let's get it, I'll use the Swedish subtitles (which did work just fine). I liked it, it was even somewhat evocative for me, reminding me of when I used to visit my sister in Ann Arbor when I was 14 and she lived in a group house.

Of course, it wasn't nearly as evocative of that time for me as ''The Ice Storm'' - Cristina Ricci wearing a knit poncho and riding her bicycle with its banana seat, all those huge wooded lots with cold glass houses, the built-in furniture with uncomfortable coire carpeting, that is exactly what it was like where I grew up in suburban Chicago.

But I'm straying from the original topic. ''Tillsammens'' was directed by Lucas Moodysson, who also directed a movie that was released in the States as ''Show me love.''

Interestingly enough, the movie had a different title here: ''Fucking Åmal.''

Which brings me to the question of language. Swedes do have their own swear words - some of the expressions are rather endearing as they like to say things such as ''fan också'' or ''skit också, which translate respectively into ''damn, too!'' and ''shit, too!. People seem to find these somewhat effective and don't find them, well, sort of cute as I do. But, they are much more impressed with words like ''fuck.'' And ''knulla,'' the Swedish translation, just doesn't seem to cut it for them.

But what is most interesting is that Swedish swear words are used all the time on television. So are English swear words, for that matter. Swedes just don't seem to find this kind of language improper for television. They don't find nudity improper either - but then, they seem to separate nudity from sex here, not that they find sex necessarily improper for television either (well, not graphic sex of course).

In fact, the main thing they find improper for television is violence.

All in all, a rather healthy attitude if you ask me.

If you feel you need further lessons in swearing in Swedish, try this site.

- by Francis S.


she said...

Swedish translation or any language translation helps one to get acquainted with the thoughts, traditions, principles and actions of the people from the region.I might say that translation is a fascinating area to explore.It is much interesting that we actually learned not anloy languages when translating but also the culture that it started out.

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