Columnist Ulf Kirchdorfer's new book, "Swede Among the Rednecks" was published to rave reviews in December, 2015. Available at and here through Nordstjernan.

I love the term skärmförbud, which I recently came across in the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan. I was peeking into a brief column by Andreas Ekström, because a headline about swimming caught my attention, along with the subheading of "Is it reasonable or unreasonable that one is not allowed to read the digital version of the newspaper at Högevallsbadet [an aquatic center in Lund]"
Like a good and reasonable Swede, Ekström is able to see both sides of the issue — or beyond the newspaper one holds in one’s hands that serves as a shield that would prevent one from watching to make sure one’s child does not drown while playing in the water but is no match for the hypnotic effect of a smartphone that likely would distract enough to cause a drowning.


Ekström is a peacemaker of sorts with his concluding statement that if the personnel of the aquatics center deem parents under the spell of smartphones to be a risk factor, then his stance is that the good authorities of the bath house have sufficient reason and mean well (and presumably this means we should follow the rules: no smartphones while any children splash in the water).

Things cannot get any more Swedish than Ekström’s piece, and I say that with a smile both with and at Ekström and myself. There is an innate compass for wanting to do right, to follow the rules, while also complaining a little for good measure, ultimately folding like a towel.
But back to skärmförbud. In the middle of Ekström’s oh-so-Swedish column, I saw in blue a command for me to also read Skärmförbud på Högevall. In this article by Görel Svahn we learn that starting in February, no smartphones or similar electronic devices will be allowed at the aquatic center. According to the aquatics center manager, many parents have been upset and became argumentative when they have been reminded by aquatics personnel that it is their responsibility to watch their children, as the parents insisted that is what lifeguards are for. Another reason to implement a skärmförbud, according to the chief of bath, as reported by Svahn, is that broken glass from the smartphone screens is dangerous and the aquatics center would have to be closed for seven days [to presumably make it safe for swimming again]. Even the faintest suspicion of a screen splinter would cause this elaborate shutdown.

Now the last reason for disallowing smartphones sounds like a Swedish bureaucrat’s, and maybe even something we would hear out of the mouth of an American administrator. But skärmförbud? This word translates roughly into “screen ban,” and having been so long gone from Sweden and not grown up with the word (or any iPhone or computer, for that matter), I associate skärm mostly with lamps, as in “lampshade,” or maybe the visor of a cap. The use of this Swedish term sounds extra ludicrous and also forbidding at the same time, so I feel a Boston Tea Party coming on. Swedes, who have adopted so many English terms, surely could have passed on the word skärmförbud.
Not only that, but can you imagine Americans giving up their smartphones and tablets poolside? Americans will not give up their right to bear arms, and these days, the privilege of the use of smartphone has translated into a right. The chief of bath would be under water if he insisted on such compliance over here, Sir.
Meanwhile, across the vast ocean, perhaps, perhaps, the good Swedes will morph into Vikings just this once and grow a pair (those alleged horns on the helmets), and smack the bath meisters of their land with a paper copy of the paper they are allowed to bring in and then resume their vacation on their smartphones?

This has been your skribent,
once again peering across the Atlantic

Ulf Kirchdorfer