“How do you write stjärtlapp in English?” Hanna asked me today.

She was home from school, unwell with a cold, and I had asked her to write a recount (in English) about snow as homework. She was doing well until she came to this particular word, which of course, was vital to her description of playing in the snow.

“Mmmm… that’s a hard one,” I said. Stjärt means bottom, as in backside, rear, tail etc. Lapp means patch, as in something you would sew onto a pair of trousers with a hole in the knee. So directly translated stjärtlapp would come out as “bottom patch,” with visions, of course, of jeans with a hole in the seat.

But that does not really give a proper impression of exactly what this word means. Perhaps these things were invented to prevent the aforementioned problem, because a stjärtlapp is, in fact, a piece of plastic beautifully shaped like a bottom for sitting on as you slide down a snowy slope. There is a handle extending from the front which comes up between the legs and is held tightly in the hands as you careerr down the mountain. A stjärtlapp is a vital piece of equipment for every child to take to school on a snowy winter’s day.

My answer to Hanna at the time was “bottom slider”. I don’t think this impressed her because I noticed her final composition had no reference to bottoms, patches, sliders, or anything like that. The concept was simply too difficult for English. Just try saying it…


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