Translating Stockholm’s Metro…literally

Lola A. Åkerström spotlights a cool and whimsical map of Stockholm’s metro you probably don’t want to use for practical navigation.

All photos courtesy of MetroMash

All photos courtesy of MetroMash

The purpose of MetroMash’s metro map collections is simple yet frankly ingenious:

To make posters of urban transit maps – translated literally, whimsically, questionably or even belligerently into English. 

Literal translations from Stockholm’s T-bana metro include stations such as Grinchville, Peacepunch Noseville and Knifetown. Visually roaming across the poster map, it ironically felt like I was reading a copy of London’s tube map with English-sounding names like Charles Square, Barktown, Greendale, and Carhill.

Danderyd is Dandy’s Clearance Hospital.

Skarpnäck is Sharp Nude.

Aspudden is Ass Pudding.

The humour of its creators shine right off the page and throughout their brand. They currently have literal metro map translations for Copenhagen, Oslo, and of course, Stockholm.

MetroMash was created by British designer Barrington Russell who is based in Copenhagen or as he describes “stuck in Copenhagen while awaiting a tea shipment that never came.” His business partners include Jakob Ronander (Sweden) and Peter Maahn Sterkenburg (Netherlands).

The store was started on Etsy in 2012 with its first publication, “Copenhagen S-Train Map in English”, before, according to Russell, “deciding that no city should be safe from our linguistic liberties.”


So naturally, I reached out to the guys behind MetroMash to tell us more about their Stockholm Metro & Tram Map: Literal English Translation,  take us through their thought process and how you can get a copy of this whimsical map of Stockholm.

What inspired you to create an English language version of the Stockholm subway map and how was the process?

Barrington Russell: I made a translation of the Copenhagen map a few years ago on a bit of a whim. To my astonishment, it really took off and was something a lot of people wanted a copy of. It seemed logical to take the idea one step further. So one evening in the pub I asked my Swedish friend Jakob (who’s a terribly cunning linguist) whether he would like to make the Stockholm translation.

We just went from there.

Jakob Ronander: The process was a curious mix of tedium and hilarity; it wasn’t actually as quick and easy as I had thought when I set out! Some names are fairly obvious, of course, but some others require differing approaches.

logoWe tried to maintain a reasonable consistency in how we translated different suffixes, for example, as one can see for Swedish place names ending on -sta.

At the same time, we wanted to avoid getting too bogged down in etymology and semantics. Obviously “tuna” in Swedish does not actually equate to “tuna” in English.

But going ur-Deutsch on everyone seemed counter-productive to having a good laugh (for the linguistically curious, “tuna” relates to the old Germanic word “tun” which has also lived on in English as -ton, as in Brighton).

Similarly spending time finding a suitable way to render in English the suffix “-inge” isn’t conducive to human happiness, as I can attest. Sometimes I would just break these words up and use the syllables in whatever sense that syllable is used today. Other stuff was more beer-goggled association games, really – there’s a Mr. Bean in there, and some George Orwell references.

All in all, I think I spent 40 hours or so on it, but it was mostly fun and we tend to work together in a rather agreeable fashion.

Why do you think the maps are beneficial to travellers even though the subway signs themselves are still in Swedish? Are they more for souvenir gift purposes or for practical navigation?

Initially we thought we were doing the tourist community a huge favour by translating these maps. But then we started hearing some disturbing reports.

There was a Chinese family got stuck on the circle line in Oslo for three weeks after buying our map. Nobody knows what happened to them. They might still be going round. For this reason, all our posters now clearly state “Not for navigation”.

The vast majority are gifts and Christmas is our busiest time. Right now our evenings are spent in an underground bunker furiously packing posters to meet demand. It’s like a little party, we put on some Blues and drink a beer – chat and have fun. Sometimes our friends help out when it’s really busy. Right now our basement is an ocean of cardboard tubes ready to get mailed out!

Any future plans to extend beyond Scandinavia?

Yes, very much so! Amsterdam is the next one to be released in the new year. We’ve only met one Dutch person with a sense of humour though, so our market research is statistically awful. We’re planning to offer ten maps next Christmas, that’s the goal for now. It depends on whether we can keep innovating or whether we run out of funny juice.

The struggle is real.


More about MetroMash Maps

Each poster map sells for 165 DKK (roughly €22 or SEK 205) and is A2 size, which measures 594x420mm. The combined border and empty space around the graphics reduces the visible area to 490x390mm.

“Posters are shipped from Copenhagen in a giant cardboard Toblerone,” says MetroMash. “Please try not to eat it.”

Visit MetroMash’s store to browse through and buy its metro map collections. Did you know Stockholm’s metro system is the world’s longest art exhibition?

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Author: Lola A. Åkerström

Lola Akinmade Åkerström is an award-winning writer, photographer, and travel blogger, and is also the Founder/Editor-in-chief of Slow Travel Stockholm. Her photography is represented by National Geographic Creative. She tweets at @LolaAkinmade.

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