Norwegian words in English: Slalom
M. Michael Brady
Slalom in English is a loanword from Norwegian. It is anglicised from the original slalåm, which is a competitive skiing event in which racers descend singly in a zigzag course between poles or flags.
Slalom is a combination of two words put together: sla, which means “sloping,” and låm, meaning “track.” It first appeared in English in the British Ski Year Book, which described a “Slalom race on Inner-Arosa practice ice slopes” (in Switzerland).
The sport originated in the hamlet of Morgedal in Telemark county in the mid-19th century as one of three varieties of downhill skiing. Slalåm, ufsilåm on a steep course with obstacles that could require jumping, and uvyrdslåm on a long course starting high up. This can be likened to the off-piste downhill skiing of today.
Slalom has been an Olympic sport since the Olympic Winter Games in St. Moritz in 1948. With time, the word was applied to other sports over zigzag courses, including snowboard, kayak racing, windsurfing, and skateboard.
The word is also used figuratively, as in describing a wandering path to avoid problems and obstacles in one’s career.
It also appeared in the Dec. 5, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.