Can you help me still my busy mind in Swedish?
August 4, 2011 8:44 AM   Subscribe

Can you help me still my busy mind in Swedish?

I find numerous references to a "Swedish proverb" that goes like this: 'Worry gives small things a big shadow.'

Anyone know what the original, Swedish version of that is? I would like something more authentic than a typed-into-Google-translate version.

Any native Swedes out there familiar with this saying?

Tack så mycket!
posted by mccxxiii to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The literal google translation is "Oro ger små saker en stor skugga" Searching for the key words oro små and skugga leads to two different versions:
Oro ger ofta små saker stora skuggor.
Oro ger ofta små ting en stor skugga. (this page lists it as an Swedish proverb, along with the translation in English).
However, each shows up only once in Google as a complete phrase (each one a webpage listing "Sayings").

It seems very odd to me that a Swedish website would list a Swedish proverb that is not found anywhere else online, so I wonder if this is really a Swedish proverb after all or if it has a different derivation.

posted by Deathalicious at 9:14 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's also not on Wikipedia's List of Swedish Proverbs
posted by Deathalicious at 9:21 AM on August 4, 2011

It's not in my fat book on Bevingade ord either. Seems to me a linguistic version of "Swedish" recipes in some international cookbooks (randomly nordic-depressed, and a bit of herring added. Red, in this case).
The only Swedish proverb with a large shadow that I found out there (apart from the two links above) is "liten man gör ofta stor skugga" (a tiny guy often makes a large shadow).

(fyi "saker" and "ting" are exchangable. Things)
posted by Namlit at 10:20 AM on August 4, 2011

Out of curiosity, what was the original source that you found this proverb in?
posted by Busoni at 10:30 AM on August 4, 2011

Never heard this one. It can also happen, that if you hear it from someone whose family came from Sweden (or wherever), that it's a private family saying, not at all necessarily something that existed in the culture. This is a pretty common phenomenon in immigrant communities, so you'll hear "my Austrian grandma always used to say 'X'", and then it is assumed this must be a common expression in Austria etc., whereas it's merely family or even particular family member tradition.
posted by VikingSword at 11:30 AM on August 4, 2011

Response by poster: I read it on someone's personal blog (a non-Swedish person) and it's absolutely possible that it's not really Swedish. If you Google the phrase, there are a ton of references to it, but always in English and credited as "a Swedish proverb" ... I was never able to find any actual Swedish-language phrasing. Maybe it was somebody's grandma, or just something from the internet.

Still, I like the sentiment.

Thanks y'all!
posted by mccxxiii at 12:09 PM on August 4, 2011

Swedish is an idiomatic language with an endless list of idioms. I have been living in the Kingdom for 15 years and I still quite often hear expressions I have never hear before, including this one. It certainly sounds like a Swedish saying.

The first one is correct. "Ting" is really old Swedish and you never hear it being used in this way in the modern Swedish lexicon. ("Ting" in the modern language refers to a regional government.) Moreover the second sentence is grammatically incorrect. The object "små ting" is plural so the it should also say "stora skuggor" as the first sentence does.
posted by three blind mice at 12:12 PM on August 4, 2011

Not to further answer this question, but to sort out the ting-sak thing for eventual passers-by:

"The Old Norse, Old Frisian and Old English þing with the meaning "assembly" is identical in origin to the English word thing, German Ding, Dutch ding, and modern Scandinavian ting when meaning "object". They are derived from Common Germanic *þengan meaning "appointed time", and some suggest an origin in Proto-Indo-European *ten-, "stretch", as in a "stretch of time for an assembly". The evolution of the word thing from "assembly" to "object" is paralleled in the evolution of the Latin causa ("judicial lawsuit") to modern French chose, Spanish/Italian/Catalan cosa and Portuguese coisa (all meaning "object" or "thing")." [Thing (assembly) - Wikipedia]

So the regional government-meaning is the older one of the two. "Really old" is relative in any case. I have heard the use of the word "ting" as "object" many many times in conversations, and the term is ubiquitous in modern Swedish literature.

[also: "Vi måste vara vänner med tingen. Annars blir tingen förbannade."
YTL in Swedish]
posted by Namlit at 2:26 AM on August 5, 2011

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