Odd Spanish Expressions: “Hacerse el Sueco”

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Did you know that, literally translated “hacerse el sueco“ means ‘to play Swedish’? Though the real meaning is to play dumb or to pretend not to hear/not to notice.

One explanation of this expression is in the origin of the word “sueco” which stems from the Latin word “soccus” (log). So, if you “play the log“ (soccus = sueco), you’re pretending not to understand/not to hear something – just like how we ‘play dumb’ so we dont have to responsible for something.

However, the most logical explanation refers to the times when Swedish sailors docked in Spanish ports. To avoid certain inconvenient obligations and affairs, they unconcerned themselves by using the lack of Spanish language skills as an excuse to basically get out of doing something.”

Now you know 🙂

– Citylife Madrid Team

Leah has been living in and exploring Madrid since 2013 when she moved to the city for a simple summer abroad. After falling in love with Madrid, she started the Citylife Blog in 2014 with the goal to share everything there is to know about her favourite place on earth! In her spare time you will find Leah at some of Madrid's many museums and cultural exhibitions.

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9 Comments. Leave new

  • I saw a different explanation to this expression on a swedish traveling show who visited spain.
    Sweden was involved in the big religion war 1618-1648 on the protestant side. Spain was on the other side. When prisoners were taken, they were inturrogated. Usually this was not survived and much worse then instant death. The spanish had interprenters, but not from swedish. So all smart captives, regardless of nationality, would pretend to be swedes. Hence; Don’t pretend to be swede! (better translation to english then “play swedish”)
    With time the meaning of the expression has traveled and in Mexico, were I picked it up, it means “Don’t be silly”!

  • Laura Navarro
    20/03/2019 05:29

    I think this is related with ancient fight between Sweden and Russia trying to get Finland territory. I think this because socialist Latin american countries has the expression “Hacerse el ruso” and it has the same meaning: someone that it is pretending that he/she doesn’t understand and countries with communist tendencies use “hacerse el sueco”

  • I don’t know if this is because most Cubans defend from Spaniard, but this is a very very common saying in Cuba. We even made a movie about it called “Hacerse el sueco” haha.

  • Juan Doez
    04/09/2016 21:42

    Also we say “hacerse el tonto” (to play dumb)

  • Beau de Gaulle
    12/07/2016 22:13

    I lived in La Plata, Argentina for two years and speak better Spanish than most natives, however, never heard of such a thing. Could be a regionalism? Thanks for sharing.

    • There is most certainly a difference in Spanish colloquialisms depending on where the language is being spoken! Why, even in Spain the phrases change as you change regions! There is no doubt that Spain Spanish and Latin American Spanish have several different terms and phrases!

    • I doubt you speak better than natives, otherwise you would have read the title of this web page which is City Life MADRID, as in Madrid, Spain. Obviously a Spanish regional saying.
      Also, sueco is another word for ‘sabot’ or something like a Wooden shoe. If that’s the origin it makes more sense, you play dumb, you’re made of wood like the shoe. Makes no sense with the Swedish.

    • Claudio Carrasco
      16/01/2020 14:02

      In Chile is a common expression (“hacerse el sueco”)

  • CAbusivo
    09/10/2014 16:43

    I love this post: learning everyday-life usefull stuff 😉 y reir!


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