One of my favorite web comics is Anders Loves Maria by Renee Engström. The comic follows the story of Anders and Maria, two artists living in Stockholm. I love the complexity of the storyline—it jumps between past and present—and Engström’s beautiful and detailed drawings. The Swedish cast makes for some interesting linguistic quandaries sometimes, like today’s word of the day: “sharking” or “to shark.”

In the final cell of last week’s comic, Anders tells Maria, “I think you may be sharking me.” Like many of the readers I was left a little confused by the word. In the comments section, loyal readers duked out the definition, several of which I’ll highlight.

  1. If she means the British English slang term, it may mean “hunting the opposite sex.”
  2. I think in this context it means something along the lines of someone not being as clueless or innocent as they present themselves. Like loan sharks or card sharks.
  3. He’s using the phrase “sharking” as if it means something – poking fun at the whole issue of using words in a context that Maria doesn’t understand.
  4. Hm, the Swedish slang phrase for ‘getting’ (as in understanding) someone is, literally translated, ’sharking’…
  5. “Sharking” is a translation of the Swedish word “hajar” (understand).

So does “sharking” mean 1. hunting the opposite sex or 2. getting/understanding? Given that the comic is Swedish in origin but written in English Engström definitely left it ambiguous. Either way, both meanings work in the context of the comic strip. I’m definitely impressed that one little comic strip brought forth such a great linguistic discussion.

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