Archive for March, 2010

100 Interesting Things: #6 Swedish

March 6, 2010

Swedish is a great language. It is really hard to learn, and the Swedes are very unforgiving when it comes to pronunciation. It has vowel sounds in it that, as a native English speaker, are impossible to master. They maintain, though I don’t believe it, that their “o” and “u” sounds are completely different, but they both sound like “oo” to me.

They put the “the” after the noun, which is freaky. “The dog” is “hunden” and “the car” is “bilen”. They have two genders “en” and “ett”, both neuter. For some reason “ett” is only used in 15% of cases (“a child” is “ett barn”).

Anyway, here is a (quite) funny introduction to swedish on you tube.

Another cute quirk of Swedish is that they have some very specific words that fit just right, “lagom”, for example, means “just right” – not too much and not too little. If you are feeling healthy and ready to go, you are “pigg”. Then, for swedes, morning, afternoon and evening are not enough for them, they also have a “förmiddag”, which is the (imaginary) time between morning and afternoon. Then of course there is the verb, “fika”, which means “to coffee and cake”. “Sambo” is very useful, because it means “the person who I live with but am not married to”, which means 50 year-old unmarrieds don’t have to disgustingly refer to each other as boyfriend and girlfriend. Another sign of the swedish practicality, is that they have a word for both the grandma on yer mother’s side, and yer father’s side – “mormor” for maternal and “farmor” for paternal.

But the best thing about Swedish is that the words are so earthy and literal. Here are some examples:

English Word Swedish Word Literal English
nipple bröstvårt boob wart
vegetables grönsaker green things
gum tandkött tooth meat
mormor maternal grandmother mothermother
turd bäjskorv poo sausage

100 Interesting Things: #5 Time

March 1, 2010

The Law of Conscious Relativity states that time slows down when you’re at the dentist and speeds up when you’re doing a Sudoku.

Einstein knew time as the fourth dimension, after the three spacial dimensions. Try this: a body, motionless in space, is moving through time at the speed of light. Move the body in space and it will move a little “slower” through time. As the body goes faster through space, time, relative to it, slows down. Of course, this raises more questions than it answers about relativity, but I find it a nice way to visualise the screwyness of how time slows for fast moving “bodies”, i.e. movement just “borrows” a little from the arrow of time.

Anyway, the only reason we are so puzzled by time is because our thinking processes and general experience is intertwined with it. We experience time passing at a certain speed (according to the Law of Conscious Relativity 🙂 ) because our brain itself is a clock. Our experience corresponds to the speed it ticks in much the same way as the number of calculations a computer can do in a second corresponds to how fast its clock ticks. (My old ZX Spectrum went at 50 ticks per second, and could therefore do 50 operations per second).

Our brains are record players spinning at a certain rate through time. The record is the outside world. The stylus is our consciousness, our “present”. We sleep when the tone arm lifts.