Language-learning: the Swedish word for basket takes me on a fun journey!

Highland Aromatics' Coorie-in Basket

Learning the Swedish word for basket started me on a linguistic journey which brought me unexpectedly all the way back to a basket - the one in this photo, to be precise.

I am learning Swedish at the moment, with the help of a native Swedish speaker (tack, Maribel) and material available on the internet, which I was directed to by a South African friend (dankie, Travis).  I recently encountered the Swedish word for basket.  It is korg:  ‘a basket’ is en korg and ‘the basket’ is korgen.

My first thought was:  ‘I know no other word similar in both form and meaning to this.  How am I going to remember it?’ I decided to imagine a basket full of corgis (Queen Elizabeth II’s preferred breed of dog).  Then I thought, ‘Well, korgen is actually pronounced more like “cor-yin”‘, which made me think of the English word ‘corrie’.  A corrie is a circular hollow in a mountain, and a basket could well be thought of as a portable circular hollow! I looked up ‘corrie’ in my Collins Concise Dictionary, and it told me that its origin was a Gaelic word meaning ‘cauldron’.

The next word that sprang to mind was ‘coracle’. A coracle is, I realised with delight, nothing but a big floating basket! Could this be etymologically related to korg?  My dictionary told me that ‘coracle’ came a Welsh word, but did not say more than that. (And ‘corgi’ comes from Welsh too, by the way, but it simply means ‘dwarf dog’.)

Then the English word ‘carry’ came to mind – what is a basket used for, after all? The dictionary told me, alas, that this word comes from carrum, the Latin for a transport wagon.

Next the English word ‘courier’ occurred to me, because what does a courier do but carry things?  Of course, I realised that this probably came from the French courir, to run.

Finally, I thought of the Scots word coorie, which means to snuggle or cuddle, I put this into Ecosia, and was led to this website, which brought me right back to a basket!  How strange is that? Now please, someone, tell me that at least some of these words are etymologically related, if one goes far back enough.  You would make my day!

Anyway, I am never likely to forget the meaning of korg, with the amazing mnemonic sentence that has emerged from all the above: ‘A courier could make a career from carrying corgis coorying doon in en korg, across a tarn in a corrie in a coracle.’ (OK, I admit that it’s superfluous to say that the tarn is in a corrie!)

Incidentally, Corrie is a village in Arran and Rachel Corrie is a hero of mine… (I am incorrigible, which brings me to the Swedish for pun – vits – which reminds me of the English word ‘wit’. ) We’ll have to end with The Corries!

Here are some great language-learning resources:


About biowrite

I am a writer specialising in non-fiction, particularly in assisting people with their biographies.
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