It was an exciting time three years ago in Canberra when IKEA arrived in town!
And it was perfect timing for us, since just at that time we needed to furnish an apartment from scratch. We carefully chose our sofa after trialling many in the vast IKEA showroom, and then discovered it is possibly the most popular sofa in the world – European visitors would ask, “Is that an Ektorp?” Indeed it is, and I love it.
The language is part of the experience of IKEA. The name is itself an acronym from Ingvar Kamprad (the founder), ‘Elmtaryd’ (the farm he grew up in), and Agunnaryd (the village he grew up in). I soon gave up trying to pronounce Ikea in a Swedish way, and followed the crowd – after all we were in Australia. After a few visits I learnt the shortcuts through the barn-like building, always encouraged by the jaunty signs. I would try and work out why the signs sounded unlike English, and often it was because they were just so friendly. Even the trolley park sign reassured me in small type that if it was empty there were plenty more trolleys inside the store (ready to be filled up, of course).
The descriptions in the famous IKEA catalogue are in a particular style. The 2019 description of the Ektorp sofa is an example:
Softness is a strength
The rounded edges and wonderful softness of this IKEA classic are not to be underestimated. EKTORP sofas are tough, with the strong seams, reversible cushions and washable covers. This is a sofa series that can take the rigors of throwing yourself onto it and squishing into the cushions day after day, year after year. EKTORP is an ambassador of durability and softness – all of the cotton used in the covers comes from more sustainable sources.
It is somehow ‘non-English’ in its word collocations (would we ‘underestimate’ the rounded edges and wonderful softness of a sofa in English?) and grammar (does a sofa series ‘take the rigors of throwing yourself onto it’, etc.?)
I assume this is all part of the Swedish brand, along with the blue and yellow, and names of the products. After one trip I looked up some of the names of the items filling our apartment. They were not in a Swedish dictionary, so I gave up. But then a Swedish colleague told us that they are Swedish place names, so I thought I would do a bit more research… It turns out that there is a whole taxonomy of IKEA product names, which was revealed by one of the designers last year. According to the list, sofas, armchairs, chairs and dining tables have Swedish place names; beds, wardrobes, and hall furniture have Norwegian place names; desks, chairs and swivel chairs have Scandinavian boys’ names, etc. etc. I decided to check this out by making a map of our IKEA furniture. It has place names from Sweden, Norway and Denmark – except the Malinda chair, which is a Scandinavian girls’ name. So some mystery remains.Now we are back in New Zealand, and just before Christmas there was good news – IKEA is coming to Auckland! And that is only a seven-hour drive away…