S is for Sverige

S is for, well kind of everything. I mean, the name of the country, Sverige, the capital city, Stockholm. The one Swedish word everyone knows, smörgåsbord, and even suicide, which many people think Sweden leads the world in, starts with an s in Swedish, självmord.

By the way, Sweden doesn’t lead the world in suicides…it’s not even in the Top 30.

The party that has ruled Sweden for most of the past century, the Social Democrats, have s as their abbreviation. And by a strange coincidence, all these words that start with s in Swedish, start with s in English as well.

So, we’ll just have to start at the top with the name of the country. Back when I was a kid and collected stamps, I wondered about this place that seemed to be called Sverige. Actually, it’s pronounced Sverige, the g in Swedish often going soft. The name is short for Svea-Rike, Kingdom of the Svea. The first time the name appears is in the Anglo-Saxon story of Beowulf.

Fifteen hundred years ago and more, the southern half of what is today Sweden was basically split between the Goths in the far south and the Svea farther north. The Goths later went on to plunder what was left of the Roman Empire.

The bottom quarter of the country today is known as Götaland, soft G, which means land of the Göta or Goths. The Svea tribes farther north eventually united the whole country, and it became Svea Rike. Which has degenerated or evolved, if you prefer, into Sverige.