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Linguistic Mysteries and Practical Storage Solutions

If you were to press your ear against the front door of our house at the moment (which I hope you wouldn’t by the way, I have quite enough stalkers already thanks, but if you were figuratively speaking to press your ear against my front door…), you would probably be greeted by one sound and one sound only:

“Bakkum bakkum bakkum bakkum”

Don’t ask me what it means. I have no idea. But it obviously means something to Kai because he says it A LOT.

I have often wondered at the true nationality of Kai. Given his tendency to babble incoherent yet strangely consistent words and phrases and shun normal words I doubt he is English. To be honest, most days I doubt that he is even human. If two white parents can have a black child because of random contributions from their combined genetic history then I find it perfectly feasible that I can have given birth to a child who is not the same nationality, race or perhaps even species as his parents. I swear his ears grow more pointy by the week so my bets were on troublesome fairie folk.

Anyway, his dad and I have listened on in bemused (and slightly concerned) amusement to Kai’s constant and earnest attempts at communication for the last couple of weeks with absolutely no idea what “Bakkum” or “Grunbar” or all the other weird and wonderful words he comes out with might mean until a family day out last weekend brought some unexpected insight on what he might have been trying to tell us all along.

We were off to visit my brother’s brand new flat in Coventry, city of grey and the famous ring road of doom. Feckin’ nightmare that ring round. We went round it twice, in both directions, before we figured out where we supposed to get off (and that was only after we’d shouted at each other, pulled over and waved Ant’s phone with it’s GPS out the window a few dozen times to try and calculate our position, and then finally relented and phoned for directions). Turns out we needed to get off, then drive as if we were getting back on and then pull a Lewis Hamilton type hard left to screech off down a side road at the last minute. Who knew? Not google maps that’s for sure.

Anyway. It’s a gorgeous flat, very ‘young executive’, and with TWO balconies and TWO toilets (which seems quite execessive for one a one bedroom flat but there you go). But that’s not the exciting bit. No. The exciting bit is that it is within 3 minutes walk of Coventy Ikea.

“It’s WHAT??! You mean you can WALK there???!”, I screech down the phone at my brother a couple of weeks earlier.

Dave: “Ummm yes. But anyway… did I tell you about the balconies? And the under-ground car park? And the concierge”

Me: “SCREW the balconies! Ikea baby!! Oh my god… you could go there for breakfast!!”

Dave: “I fear you’re rather missing the point…”

ikeaSo of course, on our visit there I insisted we have a day trip out to the blue and yellowed halls of delight (Dave: “Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to do something else? See the Cathedral…?” Me: “IKEA BABY!!!”) I mean, come on, where else can you indulge your need to by useless yet beautiful kitchen implements AND eat your body weight in meatballs and chips?

And it was while we wandering round, marvelling at the LEKSVICKs and the SKUBBs and EKTORPs that it dawned on us. 

Kai is Ikean.

Now they are an elusive race the Ikeans. By night they revel in their homeland paradise of practical yet stylish storage solutions and simple, common sense design. Perhaps sitting and reading one of those books you see on the shelves in an incomprehensible language (it’s not Swedish, it’s Ikean), or working in one of the ergonomicallydesigned office spaces, their children running gayly amidst the labyrinth of sofas and TV cabinets, before being tucked up under their stripy, whimsical duvets with their strange giraffe-esque cuddly toys. But as dawn breaks, our mysterious friends scuttle out of their sanctuary in preparation for the mass public invasion and disappear off into the early morning light to be forced to design new and exciting additions to next year’s catalogue. The only clues of their existence being a half-eaten hot dog, a crumbled looking bed, and their shining faces with just a hint of sadness peering out from photo frames in their abandoned living rooms. A displaced people they are. Waiting for the day they will be allowed the freedom to conduct their lives undisturbed.

To them LIATORP isn’t merely a strange name for a coffee table – it means “place to put your cuppa”. Their native tongue bastardised for novel marketing purposes.

Somewhere in my distant ancestry, I reckon we must have Ikean relatives and Kai is the genetic throwback.

If only I could find an Ikean to translate and tell us what “Bakkum” really means…

Maybe I’ll ask Sandy Toksvig (whose family name translates as “She of the Interesting Shoe-rack”)

I bet she’s one of them…



  1. Brilliant, just brilliant! I did take Sam to Ikea a lot when he was younger. Maybe he met the Ikeans & that’s where he picked up his favourite current word ‘akabar’. This explains a lot.

    • ‘Akabar’ sounds like a table lamp to me. Or possibly ‘please mummy don’t make me be a sun sunbean…’ x

  2. Great post! I’m suddenly having a real IKEA yearning moment. I want to SKORTT or BUKKIM with the best of you! I want useless storage solutions that don’t work but fill me with hope between the purchase and the putting together of said item. But most of all, I want to be somewhere toddlers make sense. You are so right, it is their natural habitat.
    .-= Brit in Bosnia´s last blog ..Summer Visitors =-.

    • @Brit in Bosnia, Oh the fact that you live so far away from an IKEA makes me want to cry!!! If the longing for funky scatter cushions ever becomes too much you MUST tell me and I will totally post some out to you…

  3. I view the fact that I am only 15 minutes drive from IKEA as a major perk of my house. 3 minutes walk would be rapture. Really, who cares about balconies in the face of IKEA?

    And I think you might just be on to something. I have some Scandinavian ancestry, perhaps I have a little Ikean in me as well. It would explain my baby’s love of light fixtures, wouldn’t it?
    .-= Amber´s last blog ..Sanctuary =-.

    • @Amber, What is it with babies and light fittings??! You’re right – even more clues at their Ikean ancestry. I’m beginning to think I may really be on to something here…

  4. Great post! I’m loving the idea of the “Ikean”. My own eldest child’s mystery word was always “Oppisoo”. We never uncovered its meaning but it was obviously very profound as both my husband and I had dreams in which that word was uttered with significance.

    PS. I have long since suspected that half of the products at Ikea have names that are Swedish for “Chipboard-tastic” and “Missing Essential Screws” or “Where the f*** is my Allen Key”. Just sayin’.
    .-= The NDM´s last blog ..Winding Down (Just A Little) =-.

    • @The NDM, I agree. The closest me and my husband have ever got to divorce is while building self-assembly Ikea furniture. I think it should be an essential part of preparing for marriage – after you say your vows you should be taken in to an antechamber and required to assemble a wardrobe. If you survive the experience and are still speaking to each other, your marriage is approved.

  5. Now that post just /had/ to be read aloud to my family… who much enjoyed it too. My small son’s current favourite utterances are namar and babrum. I shall henceforth refer to this as the Ikean Theory.

    • @aendr, Oh dear – I didn’t realise I was being read aloud to families! I shall edit my language in future… Glad you all enjoyed it though :-)

  6. Have you seen this app? You can make any name into an Ikea name. Thought it might help you understand him. Shame it doesn’t do it the other way around…
    .-= Mwa´s last blog ..Randomness again =-.

  7. I knew there was something familiar about Kai. I recognize him as one of my own and it’s not just his name, you see. I babbled in that language before I was formed into a Dutch woman. and feel happiest inside an Ikea store. All my furniture comes from Ikea and the names of it make me very happy. II feel like I’ve come home and so, no doubt, feels Kai.
    .-= Irene´s last blog ..Sitting here… =-.

    • @Irene, If I had the money I would fit out my entire house in IKEAesque goodness. It makes me happy too x

  8. OMG, that’s Hularus & Sotruj.
    I had to quote you as well to my wife (we are both Ikea fans). I think Ikea is the only place you feel inspired to gladly blow all your money.

    As for translating ikean, think basics like food. LOL
    For Grunbar, I thinking granola bar. or, yes true, it could mean that he wants that ikea green chair for the bar…

    Then for Bakkum, I would go for vacuum. It PRETTY clear to me (maybe not), he is trying to tell you “you should vacuum”. Who knows… he could tell dust at 3 foot high. LOL

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