Hernia Brand Glue


Scandinavians generally speak pretty good English. But every now and then you come across reminders that they are still very far from being native speakers. Witness this pail of wall-paper glue that I bought earlier today.

Dear Swedish glue-maker, “hernia” means brock and is defined as “the protrusion of an organ or the fascia of an organ through the wall of the cavity that normally contains it”. Wikipedia continues, “By far the most common herniae develop in the abdomen, when a weakness in the abdominal wall evolves into a localized hole, or ‘defect’, through which adipose tissue, or abdominal organs covered with peritoneum, may protrude. Another common hernia involves the spinal discs and causes sciatica [ischias].”

I carried the pail with great care to avoid rupturing myself.


13 thoughts on “Hernia Brand Glue

  1. The problem is not that swedes are poor english speakers, but that they are poor latin speakers. Moreover, most native english speakers would know this specific medical meaning of “herniosus”, but not the general one, according to which concept this product name could actually make some sense (it could patch up something that has been ruptured). I doubt, however, that this was the intentions of the producer.

    / Mattias


  2. Ouch! That sounds painful, Martin.

    Everyone’s probably heard about IKEA branding one of its chairs in English using the same name as in Swedish, Klapp-Stol, (foldable chair) The Clap Chair. Clap, in English, as you know, is slang for venereal disease. Which begs the question, do you dare sit on it?

    Which leads to VD in Swedish (Verkställande direktör), which in English is CEO (Company Executive Officer).

    It’s complicated.

    A favourite one of mine, is Swedes talking about “insulating” their homes in English, and being lazy and thinking that “isolering” (insulating in Swedish), translates to “isolating”, which it doesn’t. Initially this confused me. How do you isolate your home? You can’t tell it to go and stand in the corner like a disobedient school child.

    Another one comes from a conversation I had with a Swede on a fishing trip, who was telling me that he’d once caught a large “throat” (hals), when he meant “trout” (forell). So the conversation trailed off into talk of common ailments, colds, sore throats and runny noses.

    But just to show it works the other way round. When I was doing work experience in a Swedish public library, I was sat at the information desk and a large man in a lumberjack shirt asked me “Vart finns böckerna om styckning?” (Where are the books on cutting up meat?), and I heard “Vart finns böckerna om stickning?” (Where are your knitting books?) I promptly lead him off to the shelves with books on crochet, weaving and knitting. He was not very happy.

    In further conversation it transpired that the large man in the lumberjack shirt had bits of dead elk in his freezer that he wanted to cut up into smaller pieces.


  3. What? You haven’t heard about limfabriken i norrköping? 🙂

    Some background gleaned from a quick googling: Limfirman Hernia was a Swedish manufacturer of glue and other starch-based products, founded in Norrköping in 1920 as “Hernia Kommanditbolaget O. Hofverberg & Co”. It was sold to an american starch giant in the eighties, and Bostik acquired the brand name in 2002. The Norrköping factory, “limfabriken pÃ¥ torsgatan”, is still around, but is officially known as National Starch & Chemical AB these days.

    So did Hofverberg know latin better than english when he came up with that name 90 years ago? I’d say that’s pretty likely.

    (in the next episode, Rundqvist will make fun of two teenage boys from Söderfors for naming their product after the swedish expression “mitt i prick”, in the mid-thirties 🙂


  4. SAOB has both spellings, SAOL only one, so I guess you could claim that it’s a valid but archaic spelling.

    Cannot defend my misspelling of Martin’s last name, though. My apologies.


  5. Well, ‘Hernia’ might refer to a medical condition, but don’t worry – every American knows it’s also a Swedish name. A female, first name – because Hagar the Horrible’s son Hamlet has a girlfriend by that name, and everyone knows that that comic strip is an absolutely accurate depiction of contemporary life in Scandinavia.


  6. I can’t see a problem here – the packaging suggests that this particular brand is not sold in English-speaking countries at all.
    Of course, there are many similar pitfalls and oddities around the world, but they only start to matter when there is actual language contact involved. One of my favourites is English constipation vs. Spanish constipación, which involve quite different parts of the body.


  7. 89% of the Swedish population speaks English, so I guess that depends on your definition of “English-speaking country”…


  8. @Fredrik: That is precisely the point that Martin made – there is a difference. I doubt that 89% of the Swedish population could give the definition of hernia. Yup, probably less than 10% here in Germany, so you score anyway. Would be interesting to know the percentage for the US…
    @Martin, for problem read worrying issue in urgent need of resolution. Anyway, other people’s problems can often be fun 🙂


  9. Reminds me of Weird Al Yancovic’s ‘Living with a Hernia’, based on James Brown’s ‘Living in America’, with the phrase “hand in hand across the nation” replaced by “hurts me so bad in a tender location”. 🙂

    / Mattias


  10. Or Ivor Biggun’s “My Brother’s Got Piles”:

    My brother has got haemorrhoids
    We laugh, it is unkind
    The children call him “choo-choo train”
    For he has a tender behind


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