Warning: Parental Language


As the parent of a girl and a boy, both under five, and both Swedish-English, I’ve discovered at least one area where Swedish, despite its much tinier vocabulary, has the edge over English.

Swedish boys possess a snopp; girls, a snippa. That’s standard, pre-school appropriate terminology. English boys have a ‘willy’, though it sounds slightly silly. Or a ‘pee-pee’, though that strikes me as both twee and kinda American.

But for infant English girls? No, the options are all terrible: Mumsnet, surely the holy gospel and iron fisted authority on such matters, proves it. There are arcane, family-specific codewords. There’s the stuffy ‘fanny’, archaic-sounding and confusing to Americans to boot (I promise, I’ll leave American English out if it now).

Worst of all there are the prurient British circumlocutions, the ‘front bottoms’ and ‘lady bits’. FFS. Dreadful. Those seem to be common currency purely because there is nothing else on offer, but I can’t help but think that it’s a strange to set your child out unable to directly name their own anatomies, only approaching warily, through the sanitizing gauze of euphemism.

Sweden didn’t always have snippa to help out us poor struggling parents of girls. No, snopp for boys has been around since… oh, ages! (Note To Self: more research here plz.) Snippa was a relatively recent development, only popularised as recently as 2000, thanks to Anna Kosztovics, a social worker in Malmö. But it’s already established itself as firmly as its male counterpart. A word, fit for purpose, meeting a need that was introduced without much fuss and quickly established itself as the de facto term.

Sensible, practical, and equitable. About as Swedish as you can get.


Glide: Glided, Glid, Glode. Strider Strode.


I’ll never really believe that the past tense of “to glide” is glided.

It seems childish. Any reason it should follow “to elide”, i.e. elided?

That’s a Latinate word. Not Germanic, like “to stride” which gives strode,

And “to ride”, obv. rode. So what about glode?

It might be archaic, but it feels right. Righter even than glid,

As per “to hide” giving hid, “to slide” and then slid.

By analogy, I look to Swedish for a similar pattern. There, glida (to glide), rida (to ride), strida (to battle) give gled, redstred. Well, that was no help.

Come to mention it, strider (Swedish: “fights”) does remind me that Tolkein’s Strider (aka Aragorn) is secretly a warrior, not just someone with a leggy gait.


No More Sleeps Till

Onesies for grown men

These days, a cursory flick down the Facebook news feed will throw up a few dozen instances of adults who, as they look forward to a vacation or major religious holiday or a weekend away from work, elect to count down to this momentous event using the classic child’s calculation:

Just four more sleeps til Chrimblemass!

When did this become acceptable behaviour? These are people that are permitted to vote, drive a motor vehicle, drink alcohol, and maybe even carry a gun. They go onto a public forum, one where they’re still connected, not just to their family and friends, but also to casual acquaintances, work colleagues, and ex-sex collaborators. And then they express themselves using the locutions of a friggin’ toddler.

Chalk it up to rampant infantilism. Put it up there on the board with onesies and selfies (“look, I exist and am the centre of the universe!”) and Kwazy Cupcakes and the slow, inexorable annexation of Hollywood by Marvel Comics.

While Syria burns, and the polar ice caps dissolve, and Brazil prepares to host a World Cup that even its own police forces are protesting against… well, we can head down to the multiplex and chow down on Haribo Cavitytastics and watch Gosling, Knightley, Efron, one of the Olsens and Channing ruddy Tatum as the ass-kicking Power Pack!

All the problems there are in the world, and this is the generation that needs to lead the way in fixing them? We’re royally screwed. We’re in flight from reality, abdicating our responsibilities.

Ignore me, I’m just venting. This is emphatically not a claim for the moral high ground. Anyone that cares to check my GoodReads feed will see how many comic books – digital trade paperbacks? – I’ve read in the last year. (Eleven.) And Guardians of the Galaxy looks like it’s gonna be a blast.

Probably I’m just sore. Only this week, I turned the corner into a new decade. The male of my parents, before they came to visit, said “only four more sleeps till we see you!” I should be wearing tweed and smoking a pipe by now, and my retired elder comes out with that? Appreciate the sentiment and all, but abhor the mode of expression.

A line has to be drawn somewhere.

No more “(X) more sleeps till”, people!

Seriously. FFS.

A Fine Day for Fried Herring in a Flatbread Roll

AKA, the inaugural FDFHFR.


Stockholm might be a few degrees cooler than Amsterdam, but it’s a darn sight less humid, so it’s ultimately less chilling to be here when it’s 11˚C than to be there when the mercury’s equally low. The light can be marvellous too, when it’s clear, so that a humble October day like yesterday is rendered improbably fine.

At Slussen, the metro stop at the top of Södermalm, we met for lunch, and stopped at a fried herring stall. “It’s very Swedish,” m’partner said, which was reason enough to try it, and the queue was a promising indication:


Amongst the various combinations of herring / flatbread / mashed potato (potatismos, i.e. “potato mousse”), one stood out for sheer convenience. The strömmingsrulle is a wrap stuffed with fried herring, mashed potato, crème fraîche, leek, and salad. It makes for a hearty fistful of fish, though you need to watch out for creamy-fishy leakages dripping from the bottom of the wrap:

a fistful of fried fish

So that’s a win in the fast food column for Stockholm. Later, we passed a shop named Old Amsterdam, which seemed to have a decent selection of cheeses and, less impressively, a window display of Unox and Albert Hein rookworst sausages (a fairly dreary processed meat tube that works well in Dutch pea soup or stampot, but which will not be in my list of “Things Missed from Amsterdam”).

Gamla Amsterdam

Albert Hein! Godverdomme, how I do not miss that most awful of supermarkets! A place where the staff are so surly, the goods are so haphazardly strewn about the shelves/floor, the fresh produce is so wilted/squashed/rotten, that numerous articles, blogs, and songs have been devoted to the hatred of it.

In contrast, Stockholm has ICA, a supermarket that in global terms is… perfectly satisfactory. When you’ve just left behind AH, however, it’s a wonderland of unsquashed vegetables, polite staff, and myriad choices in every category. Not, y’know, US-style overwhelmingly baffling choice, but still: you don’t come out of the place with only half of the ingredients you went in for.

To conclude, please enjoy these well-stocked boxes of tomatoes in dazzling hues (NB: the photo really doesn’t do justice to the ones that are green-streaked-with-red):

yellow tomatoes, green 'n red tomatoes