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Today's post is an international delight from Josie, 1more_sickpuppy. She's sharing some amusing and fascinating Swedish proverbs - that may or may not translate to the same in English LOL.


Hi all, I thought I’d randomly share some Swedish proverbs. Bet you didn’t see that one coming!

The idea is sprung from my recent visit to San Francisco, when mentioning a saying we have in Sweden provided some amusement: sifting mosquitos and swallowing camels.

I only just learned that it is Biblical in origin, which of course makes sense. We sure don’t have any camels up here to go with the mosquitos. You’ll know it as “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel”.

I suppose our shared history, not least that of Christianity, and shared humanity is the reason so many sayings and proverbs are nearly identical in Swedish and English: it takes two to make a quarrel; grasp all, lose all; one swallow does not make for summer.

But do you know or use any of these? I’ve added some clarifications – feel free to shed further light!

Note: the translations are fairly direct and therefore most poetic qualities are lost.

Don’t judge the dog by its hairs - “don’t judge a book by its covers”.

Sour, said the fox of the rowanberries - apparently the rowanberries are a derivation of the “sour grapes” from “The Fox and the Grapes” in Aesop’s Fables.

Away is good, but at home is best.

Angry cats get scratched skin - “quarrelsome dogs come limping home”.

Burnt child shuns the fire.

One who waits for something good, never waits too long - often used by parents on hungry or eager children. At which point, the child will think, ‘that’s dumb, when you’re waiting for something good, it always takes too long to get it!’

There is no bad weather, only bad clothing - chyeah right..!

What is hidden in snow, is revealed at thaw.

If there is room in the heart, there is room for the behind - this one really looses something in translation, it is shorter and rhymes nicely in Swedish. More like, “if there is heart-room there is butt-room”, really. The meaning being that you can accommodate more people/guests if you make an effort.

First one to the mill (gets to grind first)... - “first come, first served”.

To walk like a cat around hot porridge - this usually refers to talking "around" a topic without getting to the point, because it is a sensitive or intimidating issue. "Beating around the bush", I guess?

No danger on the roof - means there is no harm done, no imminent danger, not to worry. Is this like “Bob’s your uncle”? And why the heck would you talk about some uncle named Bob??

A beloved child has many names - someone or something which is popular is often referred to by many different epithets.

Alike children play best - that you get along best with people who are like you, perhaps is the same as "birds of a feather flock together"?

In the shallowest waters swim the ugliest fish - "an ugly fish" usually refers to a suspicious, dishonest and possibly criminal person. I.e. such a person might be found where you don’t expect it, near plain sight rather than in the deep and dark waters.

A small tuft often overturns a big load - the little hindrances may be fatal.

Don't cross the brook for water - because that would be unnecessary. Don’t complicate things.

Don’t yell ’hello’ until you’ve crossed the creek - kinda like "don't count your chickens before they're hatched."

Evil gunpowder doesn’t easily perish - I never knew the origin of this until now: it is an old etymological misunderstanding of the German phrase "unkraut vergeht nicht", something like "weeds won’t go away". Swedes apparently thought "unkraut" sounded more like "ont krut" which translates to evil gunpowder…

Small pots also have ears - even though kids are small, they do hear and understand a lot. The handles on a pot, we call ears, maybe you guys do to.

And my favourite, a modern one:
Lots of talk and little hockey - all talk and no action. Well, really it’s ‘too much talking and too little shop (doing)’, but I like to say hockey. Sports commentators, like car shop dealers, may talk a lot while there’s not enough ice hockey being played or cars being repaired. Not that I’m into either, lol.

Thanks for having me!



Like to stretch your writing fingers after Christmas' excesses? Take the prompt "A NEW RESOLUTION" and write something for the visitors this month. It can be anything from a flashfic 3 sentences to a drabble of 100 or so, or even more. Any genre, any theme, any rating, any character(s). Maybe ones you already love, maybe the chance to try on a new character for size.

Depending on how many (if any!) contributions we get, I'll post them during the month or all in the last week. Just send them in to me at clarelondon11 AT yahoo.co.uk and we'll go from there :).


Follow this month with Clare - and the goodies so far:

JAN 01: A FREE short from me, revisiting Nic and Aidan from Sparks Fly.
JAN 01: A huge selection of delicious m/m icons from luscious_words.
JAN 02: Why I want to be a Bond villain! by chrissymunder.
JAN 03: Consider the world of inspiration between 'historical' and 'contemporary' with stevie_carroll.


Check up on the original post and the Guest Schedule for January HERE.

Want to join in but missed the original call? Email me at clarelondon11 AT yahoo.co.uk and I'll happily find you a space ♥

NOTE: most pictures chosen by me and credited where known, others may be used without direct permission, please contact me with any queries/concerns.



( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 4th, 2011 11:57 am (UTC)
I love these. Maybe you should get more international authors (or regional ones?) to share their local sayings.
Jan. 4th, 2011 08:41 pm (UTC)
that's a neat idea... ideally, people from each continent (well, maybe not Antarctica).
Jan. 4th, 2011 02:00 pm (UTC)
What does it say about me that I loved “if there is heart-room there is butt-room” most of all?

I grew up hearing "little pitchers have big ears". Like your pots reference, it meant that the grown ups weren't going to talk about any of the good stuff until I left the room. I became very good at skulking around.

Jan. 4th, 2011 02:26 pm (UTC)
Haha, Clare seemed to like that one too. "Finns det hjärterum finns det stjärterum"... It is cute. I associate it directly with scuffing together in a tight seat to make room for another friend. :)
Jan. 4th, 2011 04:31 pm (UTC)
I definitely like the imagery!
Jan. 4th, 2011 02:42 pm (UTC)
These are wonderful! They make me wish I knew every language on earth, just so I could enjoy proverbs, poetry, and fiction in their original forms, with all their original nuance, cadence, and rhyme.
Jan. 4th, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)
Yes, just being able to read more books in original language, and understand as a native speaker would...
Jan. 4th, 2011 07:33 pm (UTC)
Ha! Thanks for pointing this way. :)

I still like the sifting mosquitos ones (not just because of the imagery, but I don't think I've heard the english equivalent).

But I also really like "Don't cross the brook for water" because goodness, partner always does that, then complains that his feet are wet and cold, and it drives me NUTS ...

and of course, proverbs exist for me to help others, not because I need any...except maybe,

'if there's heart-room there's butt-room' since I love people so much but want them out of my space, *chagrined grin*.

And yeah, 'lots of talk and little hockey'. That's a much needed one and I like the modernity.

Thanks for sharing these!
Jan. 4th, 2011 09:07 pm (UTC)
Well, you were kind of indirectly instrumental in my having the idea for the post... ;)
Guess the gnat and camel never took as an English proverb, but they're in the Bible somewhere. Maybe it should be straining though, not sifting?

What strikes me most is how friddlin many proverbs there are. Tons of them! Many on certain themes, like water. And how well composed they are, often with rhyme and rhythm and alliteration...
Jan. 4th, 2011 10:38 pm (UTC)
I like how some of them are opposite each other. Like, *straining my brain, here, howcum I think of them often, but can't now*, ah!

Haste makes waste, and look before you leap, but,

opportunity only knocks once, and the early bird gets the worm.

Jan. 4th, 2011 08:05 pm (UTC)
Those are excellent.

Thanks for sharing.
Jan. 4th, 2011 08:47 pm (UTC)
Glad to see people got some enjoyment out of them! :)
Jan. 4th, 2011 08:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing - I love seeing how imagery differs between languages. The two which I always remember are Welsh metaphors/similes (we moved to Wales when I was 6 so Welsh was the first 'foreign' language I learned):

[mae hi'n/o'n] fel dan ar fy nhgraen = "[She/He] gets on my nerves", literally [She/He] is like fire on my skin, which I think is fairly close in imagery. On the other hand...

mor ddu a bol bwlch = literally, as black as a cow's stomach, the closest English equivalent would be "as black as a coal cellar" or "as black as midnight". I love how it's far more practical and earthly in Welsh :-)

(with apologies to anyone who actually speaks Welsh, as opposed to "learned it in school a dozen years ago" - I know I'm missing some circumflexes [to bach - lit. 'little roof'] etc.)

Back to your Swedish proverbs, I think the English equivalent of "Burnt child shuns the fire" would be "Once bitten, twice shy"?
Jan. 4th, 2011 08:54 pm (UTC)
Heh, a cow's stomach. There's another version of "no danger on the roof" which I didn't include because no one really uses it, "no cow on the ice". Livestock clearly appealed back in the day, lol.
I've seen this funny icon around that says "A book is a man's best friend, outside of a dog. Inside of a dog, however, it is too dark to read" - the same must be true for cows then!
Jan. 5th, 2011 01:15 am (UTC)
These were all quite lovely. I quite like the "as is" translation. And yes, it would be fascinating to hear more from other countries.
Jan. 6th, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
These are lovely. I particularly like the crossing the brook for water one. Also I initially interpreted the heart room/butt room as 'if you love someone you won't care if they get fat' but the actual interpretation is a nice one too.

I've got a Welsh one:

While life lasts, spend your summer: you will have heaven for wintering.

I guess that means 'carpe diem'.

And a quote - Sir John Rhys on hearing about the installation of baths at Jesus College, Oxford:

Why provide them with bathrooms? The young men are only up for eight weeks.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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