Interior Design

Hygge? Lagom? Folkeligt? Let's Say Them All

January 16, 2017

Have you heard the news? Over the weekend, Zoe Wood of The Guardian declared that "our next Scandi import” is the Danish word folkeligt, which refers to fostering a sense of pride around a shared communal practice. In this particular case, it's tied to the consumption of organic food (or "folk food"), which Wood believes is primed to overtake Britain. “Never mind hygge,” Wood writes, referring to the Danish word for coziness that has swelled into its own empire. “The new Danish buzzword is folkeligt.”

Does this sound familiar? Didn’t this hyperbolic trend declaration, pegged to the belief that another word from Scandinavia has encroached upon hygge's hard-earned turf, literally happen at the beginning of this month? Yes. In the first few days of this month, Vogue surmised that the Swedish word lagom, referring to “not too much, not too little,” is the new Scandinavian word poised to usurp hygge's stronghold in our small English-speaking brains. Lagom is meant to provide an aspirational ideal of life in moderation; it's more a mindset than a specific feeling.

Hygge? Lagom? Folkeligt? Perhaps you believe you can’t keep up with all of this forced vocabulary expansion. I’m going to need you to stop right there.

These are three different words that have three very different meanings. They all happen to hail from the same region—composed of three countries with disparate, nuanced histories of their own, by the way—and linguistic family. That's the extent of the throughline.

Hot take over here, but these shared linguistic origins don't mean that these words have to jockey for the same position in our tiny heads. Food and lifestyle media panders to us when they pretend that we can only adhere to one "trend" from a given region at a time. Any intrinsic beauty that these concepts and words carry is diluted once they're flattened to disposable trends that come and go, exiting English vernacular as quickly as they arrived. Readers are spoken to as if they're utterly incapable of processing complex thought. And we're all a little stupider for it.

Hygge, lagom, folkeligt—we can apply these concepts equally to the way we eat and live as long as we aren't total dillweeds regarding how we go about doing so. There's a lot to celebrate in being more precise with the language we use to describe the ways we eat and live. As long as we preserve the original intent behind these words and don’t bastardize and strip them of meaning in translation, who cares which one is the trendiest? Let’s embrace them all.

Any other words, from Scandinavia or elsewhere, you love? Let us know in the comments.


Ali January 17, 2017
My favorite is gezellig, a Dutch word that conveys something hard to define I. English that is beyond coziness.
Amy P. January 17, 2017
Yes! I have Dutch grandparents so I grew up mostly understanding what was implied by "gezellig". They applied it in a seemingly baffling array of situations but generally referred to a cozy, nice, attractive, pleasant situation or item.
Kenzi W. January 17, 2017
Love this. Thanks for sharing!
amysarah January 18, 2017
Gezellig sounds very much like the common Yiddish (originally German) term Gemutlich - warm, congenial, pleasant, easy going, cozy, comfortable...Yiddish is full of single words that translate to paragraphs.
Courtney C. January 16, 2017
Thank you so much for this article. I was so irritated when I read all of those articles last week saying that one word was now better than the other. They are all really lovely concepts, and should be treated as such. I'm happy to be introduced to the new ones, but that doesn't mean I'm going to stop enjoying the others.
Courtney C. January 16, 2017
And I should clarify, that I do realize these concepts are not new, but they are new to me and I'm happy to be meeting them.