Just keep plugging away

Keep plugging away!

To plug away at something means “to move or work doggedly and persistently” [source] or “to continue doing something even though it is difficult or boring” [source], as in “He kept plugging away at his Russian, even though he didn’t seem to be making much progress.”

I learnt this week that there is a similar expression in Swedish – att plugga – which means “to study, to bone up, to cram, to grind” [source], and also “to plug, to stop with a plug; to read up, to study intensively, as in preparing for a test; to promote”, as in to plug a book [source].

In my Swedish lessons, att plugga is defined as meaning “to study (anywhere, informal)”, while att studera means “to study (at university, formal)” [source].

According to the bab.la dictionary however, it seems that att plugga can also be used to refer to university studies.

For example:

  • Du behöver inte plugga konsthistoria för att uppskatta konst = You don’t have to study Art History to appreciate art
  • plugga till magister = to do a Master’s (degree)

att studera is defined as “to study, to do, to examine, to get up, to pore” [source]. It can also mean “to investigate” [source].

Is studera used in more formal language than plugga?

Is there a Swedish equivalent of ‘Keep plugging away’?

There are various ways to say you’re studying something in English as well. If you’re at a university in the UK, you might say “I’m studying Quantum Knitting”, or “I’m doing a degree in Basket Weaving”. Students Oxford or Cambridge Universities might say “I’m reading Toffology”. What about elsewhere?

3 thoughts on “Just keep plugging away

  1. In the US, you major in the subject you’re hoping to get a degree in, and you may also minor in a secondary area of concentration. Or you can use nouns: the chosen subjects are your major and minor.

  2. Simon, I wonder if you can find something out about the origin of this expression. Why “plug”? What could its original use possibly mean?

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