One reason for starting this blog was that so many Nordic language words and phrases are things of beauty in their own right – frequently besting their English equivalents. Here I effectively have a forum for analysing them in more detail than I might on a standard Facebook or Twitter feed.
In the second novel in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’, we learn in the English that Elisabeth Salander’s mother was ‘head over heels in love’ with Salander’s brutal father.
It’s the most obvious translation as it is such a commonplace expression – although love as expressed through this idiom feels like a rather ungainly thing, like a drunk person doing a forward roll on a sloping piece of terrain. Admittedly love often has this disconcerting, disorientating effect.
But in the Swedish language version of this text, the exact words are ‘upp över öronen kär i honom’ – literally – ‘in love with him up over the ears’. Now that’s fantastic. It gives the impression of a person being completely in love, of being possessed heart and soul and body and mind and beyond – love that defies height, width and earthly dimensions. Which is pure love in its most magnificent essence.
Admittedly it has a very tragic and poignant tone in this particular Larsson novel given the unpleasant fate of both Salander’s parents. But maybe we need to start translating this idiom more literally into the English – and maybe we need to start using it more often within the English language without the translatory prompt…?
I for one would welcome that. I’m set to get married very soon (in the Scandinordic terrain of Reykjavik of course) and I’ve been lucky enough to be in love up over the ears and beyond myself.