"Svära i kyrkan" literally means to swear in church, and to my understanding the figurative meaning is when someone says or does something that questions/defies a social norm in a softer manner than simply breaking rules. Its meaning is not just about misbehaving, but is a bit similar to the allegory of the child who points out that the emperor is naked.

As an attempt to exemplify, one could use it to politely caution for (and/or) soften one's critique of a certain routine at work: "I may be swearing in church now, but is it absolutely necessary that we [insert redundant task] every Tuesday"?

Another example could be when a person is frank and outspoken, in other words not being afraid to swear in church.

Is there an English equivalent to the figurative meaning of the idiom?

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    Can you give a little more nuance to the Swedish phrase? Many things could be breaking social norms, but pointing out a truth that everyone is trying not to say (while possibly breaking a norm) is very very specific. If in fact your. example is just what you are looking for the usual way to say it "the emperor has no clothes" and is about that metaphor, not (at least not usually) about breaking the norm.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 19:37
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    Noted. I've tried my best to exemplify.
    – Erik
    Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 19:55
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    "Speaking out of turn" might have some of the flavor that you're looking for.
    – user888379
    Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 20:05
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    You can "ruffle someone's feathers" (or just "ruffle feathers" without identifying whose they are) when you're saying that you disturb other people's sense of propriety. Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 20:15
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    "I hope I'm not treading on anyone's toes but...", "I hope I'm not putting anyone's nose out of joint" or "speaking out of turn", as user888379 said. "I hate to be a spoilsport", "Call me an old cynic/fuddu-duddy/curmudgeon", "I don't want to frighten the horses" or "to ruffle any feathers", as Canadian Yankee said. "I hate to be a traditionalist but..." can be amusing. (In the Emperor's new clothes e.g.) Commented Jun 27, 2021 at 3:57

4 Answers 4


There is this.

faux pas
An embarrassing or tactless act or remark in a social situation.

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    Faux pas involves doing something objectively bad, a mistake, a blunder. I wouldn't say it is equivalent to what the OP needs.
    – RicardoGMC
    Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 12:19

mince no words

to speak in a very direct and honest way without worrying about offending someone

She minces no words in stating her opinions.



I think you can use heresy in the contexts you are given to express opposition to an accepted set of "rules" that "scandalises" everyone else. About heresy, Cambridge says that it means:

(the act of having) an opinion or belief that is the opposite of or against what is the official or popular opinion, or an action that shows that you have no respect for the official opinion

  • She committed the heresy of playing a Lady Gaga song on a classical music station.

Collins explains that:

Heresy is a belief or action that most people think is wrong, because it disagrees with beliefs that are generally accepted.

  • It might be considered heresy to suggest such a notion.

The expression commit the heresy of doing something (with the variant commit the sin of doing something) is often used metaphorically as in your context:

Sure, paint over ugly existing cheap bricks, but be careful not to commit the sin of covering a lovely old characterful wall. Sunday Times (Collins)

So your example would look something like:

I may be committing heresy now, but is it absolutely necessary that we [insert redundant task] every tuesday?


This might be considered heresy, but is it absolutely necessary that we [insert redundant task] every tuesday?

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    Heresy would only be mild in some contexts.
    – Mary
    Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 22:01

"To be honest/frank...." https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/to-be-honest

It carries the connotation that normally people would elide the truth from tact in a a context.

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