Fika & Backslang

Maiden lane
I decided to translate some Swedish this morning for practice- met my 2nd removed Swedish cousins the other day so planning on visiting at some time- and knowing (at least some of) the language always makes visiting a richer experience. Anyways, I’m translating away (a post about refugees from Iraq, “Irak” in Swedish criticizing Tobias Billström, no relation, the Swedish immigration minister) and come across this amazingly great word & linguistic phenomenon, backslang.

Fika. v. Fikar, to take a coffee break.

From Lexin: the Swedish-English online dictionary:

fikar [²f’i:kar] fikade fikat fika(!) verb
dricka kaffe (informal)

It’s backslang, as in, it is switched from the Swedish word for coffee, “kaffe” (also same in Chinese!), and they switched the syllables, ka- fe, to fi-ka (phonetically). It’s an institution now, according to Wikipedia, taking a quick break from work with a biscuit.

I knew the Swedes were the top consumers of coffee, but I didn’t know that they had made such a funky word out of it. Now it’s also embraced as a short form of coffee: Fik.

I was looking up some French email-marketing phrases the other day, and to my delight, found that a jokey French phrase I use all the time, “blogeuse” is actually sanctified by the Académie française. Whew, don’t want to piss them off. Funny ancillary note: they were… upset… that e-mail had been adopted so readily by Francophones so they actually
went against their colonialist grain and picked up the French-Canadian word, courriel. Funny, though, that still nobody uses it. And they had to stoop to using Quebecois!

OK I’m really digressing now- in a French translator’s thread, they talk about the email/email/mel/courriel debate as a “souk” and some anglophone/francophone pipes up with, what is a souk, and I got this explanation which is just precious. L’Académie can’t hold back the true coolness and funkiness of language.

Non, ça fait référence aux petites rues marchandes dans le monde arabe: on y trouve de tout et il y règne un certain désordre.

My translation:
“No, it’s [souk] a reference to the markets in Arab countries, where you find a certain kind of chaos/disorder.” Excellent.