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Home » Culture and Criticism

The Ikea Visual Pronunciation Guide

Submitted by on July 8, 2008 – 11:24 AM62 Comments

If you've ever visited an Ikea, you know that one of the rituals of the trip — along with the sweet reward of meatballs after a deflating hour of comparing countertops, and the despair with which you greet the packet of wooden dowels found after you "finished" "building" that highboy — is the repetition of the product names for your own amusement.You may think it is just you who takes such consonant, stentorian pleasure in snapping off "Dacke" and "Udden" — that nobody else would admit to it, anyway, because it's childish and disrespectful to Scandinavian culture.

It is not just you.It is everyone.The next time you shop at Ikea, pause for a moment.Listen.It is happening all around you.Couples, siblings, long-time roommates, wandering through the cavernous warehouse, using chewy-named bookcases as a form of bat sonar for locating one another.

"Stenstorp!""…Förhöja!""Stenstorp!""…Förhöja!""Stenstorp!""…Förhöja!""Stenstorp!""…Förhöja!"

("Marco!""…Polo!")

Or perhaps, because of the many children running around, it is substituted for more severe language.

"Fläng, where's the rod that goes with this?"

"This Järpen pencil keeps breaking."

"That little Trollsta just cut in front of us."

"They're out of DVD shelving?Ben-nooooooooooooooooo!"

If you do not participate in this behavior — if you have not struck a General Sherman pose beside the candle display and bellowed to your companions, several rooms over, "Tindraaaaaaaaaaaaa!" — perhaps it's because you feel unsure; shy.The Buntings can help.On our visit to the new Red Hook Ikea, we compiled a brief visual overview of various Ikea-nunciations; consulting it will, we can only hope, instill in you a feeling of security…of confidence.Of…Flärke.Please enjoy the Ikea Visual Pronunciation Guide, starring Mr. Stupidhead, Gen, and yours truly.

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62 Comments »

  • Margot says:

    My old roommate and I STILL have an IKEA joke running from 7 years ago, when we purchased the BILLY bookshelves and spent the entire expedition saying "BILLY! BILLY ELLIOTT!" to each other complete with accent from that movie about the coal-miner dancing kid. Ah, good times. See, even the non-Scandinavian words provide great fodder.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    The Billy line is also fun for the "ohhhhh, BILLLEEEEE" line in Cable Guy when Carrey is exposing his breast to Stiller in the jail visitor's room.

  • Lisa says:

    The nearest IKEA to me might as well be on the moon (I think it's in Dallas unless there's one in Memphis). Arkansas can provide y'all a President and an almost-President and we can't get some meatballs? Daaamn. Hook a sistah up!

  • ferretrick says:

    I swear I just went to an IKEA here in Cincinnati on the 4th and there were none of those Swedish names on things. Unless I'm blind, which is possible. Maybe they figure us Midwesterners are less likely to embrace scary foreign words.

    Then again, I thought almost every piece of furniture was fug, so I really wasn't looking at the tags. Not to mention small-my 6'3" boyfriend thought the couches and chairs were instruments of torture.

  • Tara says:

    I am glad you actually went to Ikea instead of just freeloading on the bus so you could go to the methadone clinic. FOR ONCE.

  • Sandman says:

    "Or perhaps, because of the many children running around, it is substituted for more severe language.

    'Fläng, where's the rod that goes with this?'

    'This Järpen pencil keeps breaking.'

    'That little Trollsta just cut in front of us.'"

    Well, I will now.

    One day I may actually work up the nerve to ask my Sven if what I've long suspected is true: IKEA är Svenska för K-Mårt.

  • MrsHaley says:

    I see you've stuck with the blonde — it looks rad!

  • Sandman says:

    Uh, my friend Sven. Who is actually Swedish.

  • EMR says:

    Oh sure. We totally do this. Only… in the voice of the Swedish Chef from the Muppets.

  • haardvark says:

    I can't find it at the moment, but I tripped across a factoid a while back indicating that the IKEA product names are actually logically grouped Swedish words (mostly). So for example, dining furniture names all spring from Swedish city names, kitchenware from food names, couches from surnames of 1960's extreme-left politicians, etc.

    I like this answer better than a couple of guys and a random letter generator in Minneapolis.

  • Driver B says:

    Our couch is called Fagelbo. We never get tired of saying it. :)

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    That methadone was for a friend, TARA.

  • BetsyD says:

    There is, or was, a ferry that goes around Scandinavia called the Hurtigruten. When my friend and I were in Scandinavia, we walked around saying the name of this ferry in the manner of the Swedish chef. This amused us greatly. As you can imagine, it also greatly amused all the Scandinavians who heard us saying it.

  • Marian says:

    I once bought a milk frother (yeah, I don't know) just because of the name: Fluffig. Fluuuuuuffig. Incredibly fun to say. Also incredibly fun to watch the reactions of people who find it in my utensil drawer. A drawer which will be much more clogged with fun-to-say widgets after the Charlotte location opens next year …

  • mia says:

    We have the Klippan couch. We're too cheap to get a REAL couch, so we just bought the clip-on and hope nobody gets close enough to tell.

    I also posted a picture of my glass cabinet on Flickr and people FOUND ME to ask me to add it to their Detolf lovers group pool. Ikea fetishists?

    The saddest for me is our end table, which is a LACK. We Lack the money for real furnishings, so we have a $12 end table.

  • Catherine says:

    My favorites are the ones that are actually sort of a word (an English word, that is), but in an amusing context. Like my sister's drawer organizers that are named KOMPLEMENT. And her desk organizers (she's organized, my sister) are called STRIKT. And there's some other storage line called EFFEKTIV. Then there's the delightfully logical, like all the bedding that's called BEDDINGE!

    And there are shelves called LAXVIK and LEKSVIK. What does it MEAN? Are they twins?

    I have to do them in all caps, BTW. It's just sort of…how they go.

    The voice we say them in sort of ends up sounding a little bit like Yoda. I'm not sure why.

  • Natalie says:

    I had a particular joy buying my mattress: Sultan Fageras.

    (Note: I am not the kind of person who usually finds f word jokes funny, so the Ikea really brings it out of me. Also… Sultan. Fageras. Hee.)

  • Katy says:

    Great photos, and I love your t-shirt.

  • RJ says:

    Hey, Sars, you're looking fabulous!

    My mom and I came to the conclusion that some of this so-called "Swedish" is actually Klingon. (This came to us after I decided I needed a Jokkmukk table – years of being forced to watch Star Trek, Star Trek Voyager, Star Trek the Movie, Star Trek: Trip to the Supermarket, etc. have caused anything with a gutteral sound to resemble Klingon when I hear it.)

  • Kelly says:

    I watched a show about the founder of IKEA a while back, and I think you're right, haardvark. I do remember them saying that naming all the products just came from the founder being really bad with numbers, and so preferred each design to have a proper name instead of being the 60" loveseat versus the 72" couch or something. And that though there is a bit of rhyme and reason to the naming, there's also a fair bit of nonsense– so we don't really have to feel bad having fun with the names, because that's part of their purpose.
    And yes, our Poang chair is constantly referred to as "POANG!!!"

  • rhiannon says:

    A friend and I used to havea joke that POANG! was the sound the chair made as it launched you out of it.

  • Anna says:

    Trust me, the names don't make any sense to us Swedes either…

  • Rebecca says:

    I lived in Sweden for a year as an exchange student, learned Swedish, and learned to love Ikea. The names are one of my favorite parts of going there. I love wandering around and pronouncing them in my head (and let me tell you, however funny they might sound to you, they sound even funnier properly pronounced.)

    FYI, some of the meanings for the names in the Flickr set –

    poäng – point, as in points you score in a game (yeah, not sure on the exact connection of that one to the chair)
    famnig hjärta – actually means "embracing heart" (aww, love those pillows!)
    fniss – one of my favorite Swedish words! (in a language with so many words to love) – it means titter or giggle. OK, fine, I also have no idea what that has to do with a wastebasket.
    sparsam – thrifty

    Lord I love Ikea! Och nej, det är inte en svensk K-mart. I don't see Americans spending the whole day at K-mart the way Swedes do at Ikea…

  • cotterpinx says:

    My personal favorite — Avast, ye shoppers, IVARRRRRRR!
    Not completely for the name though it's fun, but man! That stuff is freakin' awesome. I love it not for its looks (sparse, plain) but for the fact that it's essentially furniture legos for grown-ups.
    1997: Bought 1 basic IVAR shelf unit with the attachments for hooking on a tabletop. One AMON/CURRY later, new hubby and I had our first kitchen table (plus storage!) in our grad school apartment.
    1999: Retired the table, bought additional shelving units for a corner bookcase.
    2001: Bought MORE shelving units, turned one into TV stand.
    2003: More shelving, actually got around to painting this set, put the table attachments back in action — now as computer workstation (with the pullout keyboard drawer accessory) in L-shape with table/desktop.
    2008: Computer workstation still going strong, other shelving units have been added to and now serve as toy storage in playroom.
    2009+: who knows? (a hat, a brooch, a pterodactyl…)

  • Lauren says:

    My mom just took my dad on his very first IKEA trip this weekend. He was overwhelmed, but came home with two POANG chairs for his boat. My boyfriend and I got stuck with the on-boat assembly of the chairs once my dad realized the instructions included no words! We are experts after putting together a 70 dollar DALSELV bed, which has more parts than anything that inexpensive should. (And two long thin pieces of metal that were unexplained in the 20 pages of instructions. They must not be absolutely necessary because the bed hasn't fallen apart yet, and a few different people have slept on it.)

  • Lauren says:

    Forgot to add that I also have a 6 foot long stuffed dragon who lives along the back on my couch called MINNEN DRAKE. I couldn't have invented a better name for him myself.

  • bristlesage says:

    Cotterpinx (an appropriate name for an IKEA discussion!), I love the IVAR, too. Our house gets to be decorated with books because we have spent so little money on their shelving. We've painted the IVAR to match various paintings or walls.

    I think our favorite piece of named furniture is BIALITT the Computer Desk. He's corner-shaped and has a shelf underneath for the printer and tower. I love that guy!

  • Marie says:

    We actually have taken to calling our Poang chair the Poontang chair. Not that one could accomplish that in a Poang chair, mind you….

  • Camille says:

    Was the Red Hook IKEA crazy crowded (or more crowded than one of the older locations on a weekend day)?

  • Molly says:

    Betsy D, I tried saying "Hurtigruten" in the Swedish Chef voice and laughed out loud for about a minute straight. I didn't realize just how much fun I was in for.

    Bork! Bork! Bork!

  • Andrew says:

    I love my coffee table. His given name is EKERSBY, but you can call him Dennis.

    (Because, "Dennis Ekersby"? Come on, if any crowd would appreciate a bad baseball pun, I thought it'd be this one.)

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    That's awesome. And now I feel a little better about naming a recently acquired potted herb "Elvis Parsley."

  • susie says:

    We just got two chairs named Roger. I am highly amused by calling the duo "Roger Roger."

    My husband loves his storage cube (which we use as a side table) named Höl. When he puts things in it he orders them, Happy Gilmore style, to "GET IN YOUR HÖL!!!"

    Oh, and there's a $15 floor lamp named Duderö that I want to give to all my friends as a holiday gift this year, because…it's named Duderö. (Dude! Rö!)

    IKEA is a playground for the easily amused.

  • Maria says:

    Hee. This was exactly what I needed after a shit day.

    I don't think it's possible for me NOT to say IKEA names in the Swedish Chef voice. My post-college roommate and I started did it to lighten the mood when we were losing our minds trying to "read" assembly instructions, back in 1995, before we were all assimilated. I guess it stuck!. "Hurtigruten" is the perfect word for it!

    Also, the blond 'do is looking AWESOME.

  • Laura says:

    That is awesome. But not as awesome as my old car, Ferris Buick.

  • Daisie says:

    I've always loved the drawer pulls that are named "VERB" and "ADVERB." I don't know if they carry them anymore, but VERB was a round drawer pull and ADVERB was some sort of curved handle.

  • Lesley says:

    Lisa: I feel your IKEA-less pain. There's not one in Memphis, either. The closest one is Atlanta, second closest is Round Rock, Tx (near Austin). I mostly just look at the website and then realize that shipping costs negate any possible savings.

    But I love the visual pronunciation guide!

  • Bo says:

    I say them all like Swedish hockey player names.

    I love my Poang chair. But I can't figure out how to get Detolf to go together. He's entirely uncooperative, which I've never gotten from Ikea before. The Swedes have always been so friendly!

  • Ellen says:

    To a Swede this whole discussion is hilarious :-)

    Some tips to understand the words, if you want to spoil the fun of misunderstanding them:

    Many of the names are as you observed names of towns or places in Sweden (not in Scandinavia generally, and Hurtigrutten is a ferry in Norway meaning Fast Route which sounds quite amusing to Swedes as well, as hurtig means perky in Swedish).

    If you go to the Swedish website http://www.hitta.se (=find.se) you can locate the places on a map. In the field Var? (=Where?), type in the IKEA name. Be sure to spell it right, not omitting the Ã¥,ä,ö which are actually different letters than a, a, o with sounds of their own. (So stop adding dots to everything to exotice it! We ´re fed up!) For example writing Jokkmukk won ´t work as the towns name is Jokkmokk (up in the very north, which makes the name more Finnish than Swedish actually).

    If you suspect the word to be a name, go to google.se and try it paired with for instance Svensson. If it is a Swedish name you will get hits (half the population is named Svensson…). Generally though, hard, big furniture has men ´s names and pillows and textiles have women ´s. Academic work has been written about this…

    Lastly some of the names (an increasing number) are adjectives and descriptive words such as Drake that means dragon or Fluffig that means fluffy. For those i supose you need a dicionary, if you ´re committed enough to take this to the limit. ;-)

    I've read that IKEA now has an intire department trying to choose names that won ´t be offending in any language. Something named Fack perhaps wouldn ´t sell too well in the US, although it simply meens compartment…

    Greeting from Helsingborg (pronounce that!), the town of IKEA ´s IT-headquarters (where I don ´t work but do have lunch occasionally)

  • M says:

    Lauren, I have the Dalselv bed too and I think I know the parts you're talking about. I think they are meant to go in an X under the bed to help keep the sides of the frame from buckling out? But it seems like it's been safe so far without them.

    I instantly forwarded this post to my American-Swedish friend who happens to work for Ikea. I hope he has a sense of humor about the language.

  • RB says:

    I've had an IKEA obsession since about 1999, when I discovered it on a trip, then would drive five (yes five) hours to the Elizabeth, NJ store a few times a year to furnish my post-college apartment. No one in those days had any idea what I was talking about when I'd randomly shout "ANEBODA!" (my first dresser/wardrobe set) "SKATSTORP!" (Can't remember what that was) and go on and on about the meatballs and lingonberry jam.

    Of course, in the last few years, we've had two IKEAS open up in New England, so my friends now play "POANG!" "BIALITT!" while we try to Tetris flat-packed boxes into the back of the car and spend hours swearing and having to "just walk away" in the middle of assembling furniture. My new rug is "KARBY!" Isn't he cute?

  • La BellaDonna says:

    IKEA has dragons?????

    I so need to go to IKEA. Yeah, I could use the furniture, but I need the dragons.

  • Jenno says:

    I was an exchange student in Norway (Hi @Rebecca!) and I love going to IKEA to get a Scandinavian-language fix. Swedish and Norwegian are close enough that I can interpret the names — as much as that's possible — plus I get some sort of sick joy from being a pronunciation snob (it's not FAYgerBOE, it's FAHgerrrBOOOO). It's sad when the only time you get to use your foreign language skill is in a furniture store, so you have to make of it what you can. Plus they sell skumbilar (kind of hard-marshmallow cars) and Marabou chocolates in the little shop at the end.

    By the way, the Hurtigruten? Goes up and over the coast of Norway. It means "fast route," which is about as imaginative as what any given IKEA name means.

  • Rachel says:

    I love re-appropriating IKEA product names as swear words, especially now that I have a toddler!

  • Margaret in CO says:

    @La BellaDonna, just for you:
    http://tinyurl.com/58u66b

    Sars, you are so CUTE as a blonde! Makes me wanna try it too!

  • brickton says:

    The Billy line also works well with: Did you say, "Billy, I love you" from Two Weeks Notice

  • Liz in Minneapolis says:

    I love, love, love IKEA and its wares (Aspelund wardrobe, Lyksele futon, that thick pebbled vinyl shelf liner stuff in the cruelly discontinued sapphire blue, represent!) but it's exhausting just to think about going there. Ours is also across the street from the Mall of America, which adds exhaustion by association. I'm so old…

    Also, in a state where lutefisk requires active avoidance and college and church choirs get zinged for singing Icelandic too much like Swedish and Danish too much like Norwegian, the whole Scandinavian thing is somehow less exotic.

    Still, despite it all, I love IKEA and wish I needed more furniture and kitchen gadgets, you know?

    Everybody know the song?
    http://www.jonathancoulton.com/songdetails/Ikea

  • Holly says:

    I have the dragon too, and he does make a fine couch pal. I named him Flametongue Grimworm mainly just to frighten visitors with my geekery.

  • rb says:

    Two years after an IKEA opens in one's neighborhood, Craigslist is flooded with ads for furniture with weird names. You'll see.

    We do like to visit with the kids though. It's perfect on a rainy day. And I get all of my potluck bowls there – because when it was onlyh $5 you don't care so much about never getting it back.

  • Gillian says:

    This is *awesome* dude. I was there last week and the water taxi kicks ass. Let me know if you ever want to ride it down there.

    Also, the meth link KILLED me. Maybe one of the product names should be a euphemism: "I'm going down to Red Hook tonight to get some malm. Want to come?"

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