Saturday, September 24, 2011


Some light Saturday night etymology anyone?

The first time I encountered the word fartlek I was amused that something would turn up in English that is so close to Swedish. Not that the word exists in Swedish, but the composite "fart" and "lek" does mean "speed" and "play", which I found rather funny. Well, the jokes on me obviously since it is a Swedish idea from the 40's by Gösta Holmér when he was training cross country teams.

There's a quite a few words the Swedish and English has in common although the meaning has shifted over the years. Some of them comes from old Norse and was imported to England via the Vikings, some comes from our common Indo-European background and then of course, Sweden has adopted quite a few words in the modern era.

And by this rather cumbersome introduction, the word for tonight is: "spring". This is one of the Indo-European ones, and it is closely related not only in Swedish and English but also to German ("springen"). However, whereas in English the verb usually means to start, or to leap, in Swedish it means something else which is familiar to us all: "to run". So "to run" is "att springa", and "I run smiley" will be (approximately) "jag springer leende".

I like the connection: Leaping into a run, legs pumping like springs, springing along the path, and uncoiling to action. Not to mention the various spring-like mechanisms of our legs is what keeps us moving, hopefully injury free, mile after mile during those wonderful runs. Am I easily amused? Sure, and hence I'll end this little musing with a word-wrangling I kind of like: 

Keep on springing Smiley!

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