Wacky Swedish Word of the Day

13 November 2007 at 23:14 1 comment

For the last six months or so, I’ve subscribed to a Swedish mailing list called Om Ett Ord (About a Word). Every weekday, they send me an email describing the etymology of particular word. The editors often pick foreign loan words, which happen to be the same (or almost the same) as the equivalent English loan word, so I end up learning as much about English etymologies as I do about Swedish etymologies.

For instance, did you know that clementines were named after Father Clement, a French missionary in Algeria who discovered a clementine tree growing in his garden? I didn’t either until I read the origin of the Swedish clementin.

I was baffled by today’s entry when I saw the subject line in my in-box:

Toffelhjälte — literally “slipper hero.” (Pronounced tof’-el-yel-tuh, for those of you who don’t speak Swedish. I couldn’t imagine what a slipper hero might be until I read the explanation (here’s my quick and dirty translation):

A toffelhjälte is a man who’s bullied by his wife. Today, the word toffel [slipper] is used, quite simply, to mean the same thing. And not just for married men, but even guys who ignore their friends in favor of the relationship.

The word is used only to describe men. There is no female equivalent. The word was borrowed from the German Pantoffelheld in the end of the 1800s. This usage comes from the expression unter dem Pantoffel stehen,” to stand under the slipper. Shoes and feet have often been seen as symbols of power and soft shoes as something typically feminine.

Yes, it’s sexist, but nearly as bad as some of the equivalent English expressions.


Entry filed under: Humor, Language, NaBloPoMo, Sweden.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. John Regan  |  30 November 2007 at 11:10

    Takk sa mycket!

    I am a Swedish learner in the UK and not heard of Om ett ord before, I have just subscribed.

    I also run a blog with a Swedish word of the day but its basic words so om ett ord will be great for me!



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