Tag Archives: Housing English

Janitors, house caretakers and super sleuths

We’ve certainly been busy with Housing English this autumn. Last week Gary Watson and I had two lively days in Solna doing training sessions with the staff of the Signalisten municipal housing company. And today he’s in Lund with LKF. Here he is in the penthouse of the Park Hotel enjoying a birdseye view of Solna.

Gary in Solna


We’ve compiled an English- Swedish dictionary of housing words for our trainees. One word that has given us some interesting translation problems is “bovärd”. These are often the first point of contact with the municipal landlord. They are also the ones who carry out small repairs with plumbing and electrical matters.

The British word caretaker and the American janitor are a reasonable translations but don’t really cover the level of responsibility that a “bovärd” has. In addition to maintenance they are also responsible for liaising with contractors, ordering work and then assessing that it has been done correctly. We recommend the term “house caretaker.”

A house caretaker is also the eyes, ears and even nose of the landlord. By talking to tenants and being observant, they can soon detect is anything is amiss or suspicious. One of our Signalisten trainees told the group about how she had noticed an unusually high number of people visiting one particular apartment block in her area. Some of them seemed to be under the influence of something. Some nifty detective work enabled her to find out which flat they were visiting.

The police were informed, they did a stakeout and within a short time there was a raid. The lodger in the flat had been dealing drugs. He is now behind bars.

That house caretaker was a real Sherlock Holmes. I was just waiting for her to turn to Gary and say “Elementary, my dear Watson!”

Autumn leaves me lost for words


No it’s not one of the Ghostbusters! It’s a guy clearing our square here in Kärrtorp of autumn leaves.

After having taught English for well over 20 years, you’d think that Gary and I knew most words in the language. Far from it! On average, I’d say we learnt about 10 new words or phrases a week. And when we are doing our courses in Housing English for SABO, it’s probably double that. There are so many legal terms, pieces of equipment and names for household objects that one doesn’t know. The course participants really keep us on our toes.

Back to our chap in the square. It’s very obvious what his inverted vacuum cleaner thingy does, but what on earth do you call it? I asked him but he told me he was Russian and didn’t speak Swedish or English. Fascinating though it might have been to learn the Russian word for his gadget, instead I Tweated the question. I rapidly got an answer from former Impact92 colleague, Anna Whinett now in Wales: a leafblower. That easy!

Leafinator was also suggested but it sounded far too Schwarzeneggeresque to me. I Googled the term and found out that there is a device with that name. It’s used to clear swimming pools. I had a mental image of Arnie jumping around in the water gathering dead leaves.

“Hasta la vista, baby! I’ll be bark!”