Daily Archives: April 26, 2010

On Swedish obscenity

Word came from my Swedish nephew (aged 4) that he heard his father utter an obscenity while trying to fix some problem with the TV.  The word worthy of being a special topic of conversation and uttered by children only in hushed tones was ‘jävlar’ which translates as ‘devil’.

Now, a lot of Swedish curses involve the devil compared to our curses which seem to be fixated on bodily functions.  I found this to be particularly interesting since his older brother (aged 6) has learned (and uses endlessly) the word ‘shit’ (which he uses, I suspect, more because as a foreign word it has a cache of ‘coolness’ than any vulgar intent).

So…two interesting things I took away from this.

  1. How different cultures determine what is regarded as unclean or worthy of the focus of our frustration, distaste and contempt (Why do Swedes focus on religious based expletives while English/Americans on excrement?)
  2. How disconcerting it can be to hear a 6 year old swearing like a sailor.