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The Swedish Lacuna

Sweden is a country renowned for having the most liberated attitude to matters of sex, so it comes as something of a surprise to learn that its language lacks a word for female masturbation. 

This lexicographical lacuna I discovered in a British newspaper, which in itself would not be startling if it had not appeared in an organ (forgive me) of the press that espouses on behalf of its resolutely middle-class readership an unswervingly prudish attitude to matters sexual. 

I refer, in case you had not already guessed, to the Daily Mail. But that is by the by.

The thrust (forgive me again) of the Mail’s story, no doubt printed for the benefit of its many readers with an abiding interest in aspects of language, is that a group of Swedish women are asking for suggestions for a new word to fill the gap. (At this point I’ll stop apologising.)  What they have come up with, so far, are ‘klittra’, ‘pulla’ and ‘selfa’. 

Now, I am not sufficiently acquainted with the Swedish language – even after watching several hundred episodes of interminable Swedish crime melodramas on television – to know whether those words are remotely suitable.  On the face of it they sound pretty tame, and by no means self-evident.  The first sounds, to English ears anyway, like a brand of ‘kitty-litter’.  The second suggests the equivalent activity as practised by males.  The third comes perilously close to the neologism now widely used for taking a snapshot of ones’ self.

Not that we in the Anglophone world are in a position to criticise, since, as far as I know, there isn’t even an English word that translates to one that the Swedish ladies might find appropriate.   

Perhaps there is a word or phrase to be borrowed from French or German, though I haven’t happened across one yet.  The French probably use something wildly euphemistic, like ‘the cat that swallowed the naked canary’.  The Germans may have such a word, but even if they do it is probably such a multi-syllabic tongue-twister as to be confined to the Teutonic lands.  Even the German word for dildo is a mouthful, and altogether too literal sounding: Kunstlicher Penis, meaning artificial penis.    

Clearly, if we are to be of any assistance to the Swedish ladies, further research is required.  I for one intend to give the topic further attention.

Meanwhile, any and all polite suggestions will be gratefully received – and of course passed on to the Daily Mail

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