Lagom

Swedish word meaning “just the right amount”.

Ιn ancient Greek, there was the infamous phrase of Cleobulus, Métron áriston (μέτρον ἄριστον) i.e.: “Moderation is best”.

«Lagom is a uniquely Swedish term that doesn’t have an English equivalent. Not only does it not translate perfectly but its just a very Swedish idea, or feeling. Lagom is “Just enough,” “Not too much or too little,” “Just right,” “Enough to go around,” “Fair share.” It indicates balance. Lagom doesn’t have the negative connotation of “sufficient” nor does it claim perfection. “How are you?”, “How is the weather?” can be answered with lagom.  Someone can be a “lagom” height. This term not only has many applications but it represents the Swedish cultural and social ideals of equality and fairness.» (source)

The origin of the term is an archaic dative plural form of lag (“law”), in this case referring not necessarily to judicial law but common sense law. A translation of this could be “according to common sense“. A popular folk etymology claims that it is a contraction of “laget om” (“around the team“), a phrase used in Viking times to specify how much mead one should drink from the horn as it was passed around in order for everyone to receive a fair share. This story is recounted widely, including on the website of the Swedish Institute.

Parallels can be drawn from “lagom” to the Law of Jante, which in short says that a group member should not think they are better than anyone else, which indicates that “lagom” could mean “the appropriate amount, according to the Law of Jante“, for example, the phrase “take lagom with sugar” would mean “do not take more sugar than one should“.

The value of “just enough” can be compared to idiom “less is more“, or contrasted to the value of “more is better“. It is viewed favourably as a sustainable alternative to the hoarding extremes of consumerism: “Why do I need more than two? Det är [It is] lagom” It can also be viewed as repressive: “You’re not supposed to be too good, or too rich“.

In recent times Sweden has developed greater tolerance for risk and failure as a result of severe recession in the early 1990s. Nonetheless, it is still widely considered ideal to be modest and avoid extremes. “It’s the idea that for everything there is the perfect amount: The perfect, and best, amount of food, space, laughter and sadness.

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