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How to Do a Whole Poodle in Swedish Posted by on Mar 31, 2015 in Swedish Language

That title doesn’t make much sense, does it? That’s what happens sometimes with literal translations. But in Sweden, you’ll sometimes see headlines about someone who has gjort en hel pudel. In fact, just recently, after Sweden apologized (or didn’t apologize) to Saudi Arabia after the country chose not to renew an arms deal with the Saudis, Dagens Nyheter asked that very question: Har Sverige gjort en pudel?

Pudel Grossschwarz

This proud poodle refuses to apologize. By B. Schoener (Flying Spark at de.wikipedia) (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As I’m sure you’ve realized, att göra en pudel means to ask for forgiveness. It’s done in a public way and usually in response to a previously bold statement that turned out to be wrong. To do a poodle then is to expose your wrongness and admit to it. In English we might say that you got on your hands and knees and begged for forgiveness. That sort of thing. You’re asking for forgiveness in a way that puts you in a position of humility or vulnerability. Just like a poodle on its back after it ate the cake off the table and got caught.

The phrase is relatively new in Swedish and appeared for the first time in a 2002 Dagens Nyheter article. In that article about a Swedish political scandal involving Jan O. Karlsson, Pål Jebsen was quoted using the term to positively describe the way in which Karlsson apologized. And with that quote, a new idiom was born. In 2003, Svenska språknämnden added it to their list of new words and phrases.

But to do a whole poodle isn’t the only Swedish use of the word pudel. You can also be klok som en pudel, for example. That is to say, you’re super smart, wise as an owl.

Or maybe you are a luspudel. That’s not a good thing though. It means that you’re kind of a scoundrel. A rat. A swine. A louse even. In fact, en lus means just that, a louse. So you’re a louse poodle. The worst kind of poodle, obviously.

En pudel makes a surprising number of appearances in the Swedish language, especially in colorful idioms or phrases. Does your language have any idioms that use poodles? Let us know in the comments below.

Interested in more idioms? Check out our post Tricky Swedish Idioms.

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About the Author:Marcus Cederström

Marcus Cederström has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2009. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Oregon, a Master's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a PhD in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has taught Swedish for several years and still spells things wrong. So, if you see something, say something.


Comments:

  1. Joakim Tengstrand:

    Hi!

    Interesting article! I’m from Sweden and I discussed with my coleagues if they have heard of “klok som en pudel” but no one had! In sweden we have the “pudelrockbandet” (poodle rock band) “The Poodles”, which received its name because of the similarity of their hair is curly as that of a poodle: http://www.poodles.se!

    BR,
    Joakim Tengstrand

    • Marcus Cederström:

      @Joakim Tengstrand I’ve usually heard it here in Sweden in a sports context, although I’ve definitely heard it used outside of that context. Interesting that you haven’t heard it!