This is Swedish idioms part 2 – an introduction of the most common and best-known Swedish idiomatic expressions. As with any language, there are many different idioms that children grow up with and these expressions are developed as word-of-mouth. Because there are figurative expressions the meaning behind the expressions and the direct translation differ much. Here are three expressions that have a hidden meaning:
“Att vara blåögd”: means that someone is naive and easily fooled, but literally translated it as “being blue-eyed“.
“Vara runt under fötterna”: this tells you when someone has had too much to drink – the person is intoxicated. Literally the translation is “being round under the feet”.
“Ingen ko på isen”: is translated as “no cow on the ice” but the meaning behind it is that there are no direct or urgent problems.
In Sweden we are known to be a bit shy in expressing our direct opinion, but we have many idiomatic expressions that will help us with this. The meaning of the following expressions are that a person is stupid because he or she “lacks something”. For example, if you have all cups in the cabinet you have all things in check and are complete, however, if you don’t have all the cups in the cupboard, it basically means that you don’t have a clue and are therefore stupid. Below are the literal translations of some Swedish idioms that all have the figurative meaning that someone is stupid or confused.
“Ha alla tomtar på loftet”:”have all gnomes on the loft/attic”
“Hissen går inte hela vägen upp”: “the elevator does not go all the way up”
“Ha alla bestick i lådan”: “have all your cutlery in the drawer”
“Ha alla hästar i stallet”: “have all horses in the stable”
“Ha alla indianer i kanoten”: “having all your Indians in the canoe”
“Ha alla skruvar i behåll”: “have all the screws left”
Another very common expression is “vara dummare än tåget” – directly translated as “being more stupid than the train” and this expression has a quite fun story behind it. In the 1800s, Sweden had a prince named August and a steam locomotive was named after him – Prince August. During this time rumours were circulating that Prince August was rather stupid, and hence arose the term “dumber than the train”.