Somebody must have misunderstood somewhere

I’m not fluent in Swedish, so quite often I have to guess words when I try to speak. By knowing English and Dutch (and basic German) and given the fact that those languages all somewhat belong to the same group of languages, I have access to quite a large set of words to choose from to make a somewhat educated guess of what a particular word would be in Swedish. I noticed over the last couple of years that picking a Dutch word as a base for translation often leads to a more successful translation then when picking an English one. Since I mainly speak English at work and more then half of the time at home, I think in English, but I’ve often found myself saying “ah, that’s just like the Dutch word!” when asking people for a translation from English to Swedish.

But there are a few words that sound similar or might even be in the same area, but do have a different meaning in Dutch and Swedish. One typical example is the Swedish verb springa (to run), which is very similar to the Dutch (or German) verb springen (to jump). They both are a movement, but not the same one. I automatically translate to “to jump” instead of “to run”, which might lead to me jumping of a bridge instead of running across it.

Unfortunately I’m not a linguist, but I’m curious how this difference came to be. Somewhere, a long time ago, some viking must have mistaken the Dutch guy jumping off the bridge for him running off the bridge.


2 thoughts on “Somebody must have misunderstood somewhere

  1. (Cross posting from Facebook)

    According to the Swedish Etymology dictionary, the origin of the verb ‘att springa’ is connected with a small leap caused by changing the position of the feet. I reckon that a lack of another better word coming from a different source might make it evolve to whatever action is connected with movement of feet.

    Even funnier fact. “To sprint”, in English, comes from the Old Norwegian “spretta”, also for sure connected with it.

    • The same word has survived as a noun in Swedish: “språng” means “a leap”. There’s also a funny word called “språngmarsch” (literally “leap-march”) that comes from the military. I think “double time” is the correct military term in English/American. It means “a run”, and is usually used when you hurry up to get somewhere on time.

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