J is for Ja

J is for “ja”, the Swedish word for “yes”. As in “ja, sure”, which is supposed to sound like Swedish immigrants in America, but which actually sounds a lot more like a Norwegian accent.

Now there’s another Swedish word that sounds just like “ja”, the spoken form of the word “jag”, which means “I”. It’s spelled with a “g” at the end, but when it’s pronounced the “g” is silent. Totally different word, though.

There are some interesting spin-offs of “ja”, “ju” and “jo”. They are both answers in the affirmative, but with a little twist. “Ju” has the sense of “certainly”, while “jo” is more of a “yeah” or “sure”, sometimes accentuated as “jo då”.

Not to forget the stronger version of “ja”, “javisst”, which is more like “absolutely” for “for sure”. The expression begins a famous poem by the early 20th century Swedish poet Karin Boye. “Javisst gör det ont”, “Yes of course it hurts, when buds burst. Why else would spring hesitate?”

It’s a bit like T.S. Elliot’s “April is the cruellest month”….