Puh-JAH-ter-ide. PEE-ya-ter-id? It must be pidge-uh-TAR-id. OK, how exactly do you pronounce Pjatteryd? And why does buying a $39 picture...
Puh-JAH-ter-ide. PEE-ya-ter-id? It must be pidge-uh-TAR-id.
OK, how exactly do you pronounce Pjatteryd? And why does buying a $39 picture of a flower at Ikea have to be so freakin’ complicated?
If you’ve ever bought furniture at Ikea, you’ve probably done it: stood speechless in front of some bookcase you really wanted, dreading the moment you’ll flag down the salesperson and say, “Hey, um, do you have a Diktad? I mean, I want a Diktad. And also that Fartyg over there. Please.”
Ikea’s Clive Cashman swears they’ve tried to make sure the Swedish names they give their products don’t have weird or offensive connotations in any language, but it’s complicated when you sell furniture in 32 countries.
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“Some things you can’t find in a dictionary,” says Cashman, “because they’re slang in another language.”
Which, probably, is how they ended up with Fagelbo and Lessebo, both of which are sofa beds. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Vindum. Ulnes. Gulviva. They sound like body parts you don’t know you have until one of them suddenly needs to be surgically removed.
Some you get; some you don’t
Sometimes Ikea’s choice of Swedish words is right on target for the American market, evoking the perfect image. Cool design and cheap prices already have drawn us in, but the name seals the deal.
A line of office furniture is called Effectiv. Beds are called Hopen and Lovene. Your baby can drift off to sleep in a crib called Sniglar while hugging a so-unattractive-that-it’s-cute stuffed owl called Uggla. For a dollar, pick up a stuffed chipmunk called Sot, Swedish for sweet. Lamtan is the word for lamp, and Steka, the name of an Ikea skillet, is the verb “to fry.”
She’s a chair, he’s a bookcase. But you can almost picture the wedding invitation. “Karlanda and Billy invite you to celebrate their special day … “
But just when Robin, a nightstand, or Salt, a plant pot, lulls you into thinking you’re safe, along comes a Jarnvalla/Munkarp Fliken. Or, worse, a Ljusnan and a Dryckjom get stuck inside your Fjallnas.
Ikea shopper Sharon Fallon wonders why they can’t just call a desk a desk. “I have Ikea things in my home, but I couldn’t tell you what they’re called because there’s too many vowels. Everything is like, Aeovck.”
I want whatever that is
So if half the shoppers are wandering the store thinking these names are made-up words (they aren’t), and the other half is wondering who gets paid to come up with this stuff (Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad used to do it himself, but now a whole team is on the job), doesn’t all that frustration send people screaming out to the parking garages empty-handed?
Judging by Ikea’s success, no: It has just the opposite effect. Shoppers might be skittish about saying the names out loud, but they want Ikea’s stuff badly enough to take salespeople by the arm, drag them over to a display and say, “I’ll take one of these.”
And that, according to brand expert Rob Frankel, is Ikea’s secret weapon. “That’s when they’re hooked,” he explains, “because now they’re asking the salesperson about it. And the next thing you know, you’re selling them a whole roomful of furniture when they came in for a wastebasket.”
Or a Viren, for those of you keeping score at home.
A tray named Ted
Ikea isn’t surprised that Swedish nouns and verbs help sell their products. They just hadn’t expected people to develop meaningful relationships with Mysa Myckets and Angersbys and Funkas.
“When I met my husband Jack, a bright yellow TV tray named ‘Ted’ was his faithful friend,” says Ikea customer Andrea Butler.
“But 16 years of marriage, six houses and two kids later, Ted was left behind in one of our many moves. Every oncein awhile, Jack still mentions Ted. How he wishes we still had Ted for eating in front of the TV, for setting up an additional outdoor bar for parties. Had Ted been called ‘Yellow TV Tray,’ I don’t think Jack would’ve had the same relationship with this $15 furniture accessory.”
So the next time you’re trolling the aisles of Ikea hoping to add some style to your personal space (and learn a bit of Swedish), just pause to reflect a moment before letting Billy and Karlanda and their pal Slabang into your life.
It could be a much bigger step than you realize.
Melissa Rayworth builds all the Ikea furniture in her household. Her husband refuses.