Swenglish: så kallad, även

Swenglish is what can happen when you figure out what you want to say in Swedish, then translate the Swedish into English… and the English version isn’t quite right.

In normal life, Swenglish doesn’t usually create difficulties in understanding. However, in a formal academic text, like your uppsats, it’s good to be as careful as possible. You can easily find more Swenglish examples online, but here, we’ll focus on some small words that have subtle (but important!) differences in meaning.

In this post, we’ll cover så kallad and även.

så kallad: Is often translated as “so called” (and can also be spelled with a hyphen). The meanings of the two phrases are just about the same, but the problem is that (to many native English speakers) the phrase “so called” is much more negative. Så kallad means only that I am about to tell you a name for a thing; “so called” means that I have a quite negative feeling about the word, or that I’m being sarcastic or ironic when I use the word. Because of this judgemental quality, “so called” probably simply shouldn’t be used in an academic text.

Företag som säljer varor eller tjänster i Sverige ska ta ut moms av dina kunder, så kallad utgående moms. (This sentence is fine in Swedish; “så kallad utgående moms” simply reports the name of the process.)

My car broke down two weeks ago and that so called mechanic I left it with has not fixed it yet. (In English, this sentence implies that I suspect that the person who has my car is incompetent and doesn’t deserve to be called a mechanic.)

även: Can be translated to both “also” and “even”. “Also” simply adds another item to list is neutral. “Even” adds an item to a list, and also conveys the feeling that the new item is unexpected or even counter-intuitive.

We need to buy eggs, flour, and also milk. (A neutral list.)

We need to buy eggs, flour, and even milk. (Implies that I am a little surprised that we’re out of milk.)

Cats also make good pets. (Either “cats” or “good pets” are being compared to something else: perhaps the previous sentence was “Dogs make good pets,” or maybe “Cats are useful farm animals.”)

Cats even make good pets. (Here, the previous sentence must have been something like “Cats are useful farm animals”, instead of something about dogs. Furthermore, I’m expressing some surprise at the fact that cats make good pets.)


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