Straight-up Scandinavia: Learning the language of IKEA

I find that either you love IKEA or you hate it; you can probably ascertain my own leanings by the fact that I am writing this article. Coming from a Scandinavian family, we have friends who used to have stuff shipped from Sweden to the US before the store made its American debut — some people are just truly committed. But seriously, the company’s basic idea was pretty cutting edge back in the 50s when it started designing furniture. “Affordable solutions for comfortable living,” as the company’s motto goes, went along with flat pack and consumer assembled pieces. How intelligent to reduce costs by reducing the volume of a piece of furniture.

IKEA is a Scandinavian institution gone global, and despite whether you love it or hate it, you are bound to end up with one of its products at some point. I mean really, who can resist sleek Scandinavian design? And when you do find yourself with that Nordic sofa, bookcase, or lamp, you might be interested to know exactly what all of the funny names mean. Pyssla, Svala, Visdalen, Gök? Although it may seem like a jumble of Viking vowels, there is some method to the madness. IKEA’s founder Ingvar Kamprad was actually dyslexic, and he found that developing a system where products were named after places and things made it easier for him to remember them. Learning Swedish is great, but learning IKEA? Even better. A guide to deciphering the system that defines the IKEA language, thanks to a little help from the The Guardian:

Scandinavia unite:
Sofas, coffee tables, bookshelves, media storage and doorknobs — I agree, that last one is random — are named after places in Sweden; beds, wardrobes and hall furniture after places in Norway; and carpets after places in Denmark. And don’t think Finland gets left out; Finnish cities and places are the namesake for dining tables and chairs.
In the kitchen
Kitchens themselves — no, cooking in an all-Scandinavian setting does not require you to make meatballs — are normally named after Swedish grammatical terms. Going with the theme of cooking, kitchen utensils are named after spices, herbs, fish, fruit or berries. And just because Scandinavians are such believers in functional things, great words like Burken (meaning “the jar”) describe a line of spice jars.

Vad heter du? What’s your name?
Men’s names tend to go to chairs and desks while materials and curtains are women’s names. My mother has a nice set of place mats and chair pads named after her. I however, with a standard Scandinavian name like Anna, am far too common and get nothing.

Keeping the kids amused
IKEA’s great kids selection — I always get sucked in by the fun colors and random assortment of crazy stuffed animals — are named after mammals, birds and adjectives.

If you think you have all of that down, and have mastered the list of Scandinavian places and words, you can play the IKEA Game, where IKEA product names are picked at random out of a database and your job is to guess what the product is.

And if you are one of those IKEA-dreading individuals, you might want some help with IKEA survival during your next visit.