Turns out it's a Scandinavian thing to use numbers instead of swear words. The background is that 18 was a dangerous number since it was the number of the main Nordic god Oden, (aka Odin in English), and then 17 was a little less dangerous.
Edit: the first link no longer works. Go to this page and search for the word 'sjutton', I can't seem to find a way to link to the search result. (The text is in Swedish).
Another very close group is the Romance Languages: Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and French. Once you learn two of them, the others are just connections.
The most interesting part is how much German seems to match Italian and Portuguese, sometimes more than English (in constructions and rules, mainly).
Learning all that language pack is like seeing them all together coming from the same origin.
Good topic! One of the most interesting things I read about modern German is that it came together as a sort of umbrella dialect created to be as understandable as possible to various german states. The details are lost in the porridge that is my brain, but I think the idea is fascinating given how close some modern language families are...
An Italian friend of mine once said Italian was basically Spanish with an O on the end. I was able to figure out a surprising amount of Italian from my high school Spanish as well as Dutch from my 1 1/2 year living in Hamburg and dating a man there for the last 7 months who didn't speak any English. :-) I was far more fluent in German than after 2 years of Spanish. :-) Nothing like loads of real life practice.
The Strand in NYC has some books in Swedish in the basement. Ikea in Brooklyn has lots on display but they aren't for sale! Maybe we should contact them against the inevitable time when they change décor. I occasionally see books in Danish put out on the street in Bkln; once in a blue moon in Swedish. Norwegian ones are more expensive and their owners don't part with them so lightly.
That actually comes from the Romans. It is considered unlucky because written in Latin numerals it's XVII, which is the anagram of "VIXI", i.e. "i died" (literally "I have lived"). :) That is kind of similar to what happens to number 4 in chinese, japanese and korean, because it has the same pronunciation as "death".
In China, the buildings have their floors numbered this way: 1,2,3, (skip 4) 5,...,10,11,12, (skip 13 and 14)15...
Also, people in China will to pay more to have a phone number with 8 in it, because it sounds like "prosper", and thus it is believed to be a lucky number.
I worked at a large casino/resort in Las Vegas... In one of the hotel towers, they skipped the 40th floors because of the 4 "thing" in the eastern cultures. It went from floor 39 and the next one up was 50. I knew it was because 4 was "unlucky" somehow, but I didn't ever find out why. Interesting it's because of the pronunciation of "death".
I found this about someone who has studied it in depth: http://www.svt.se/nyheter/inrikes/fy-sjutton-vilka-konstiga-svordomar
And several not-so-mild English swear words used in casual conversation. Can be a shock to a Brit to hear words used on the radio in the middle of the day that would constitute a firing offence back home! I guess words lose a lot of their cultural context when they are adopted by other languages, swear words included.
"Damn", literally to curse or condemn. "Darn", literally to mend or repair, with yarn (as in socks, see the pun above in Beanybadgers post). However, in some versions of English "darn" is used to avoid saying "damn" ("Goshdarn it", instead of "God damn it") so in that sense "darn"(not-quite "damn") is a perfect equivalent to "sjutton". I have also seen "Dang" used in this way.
One thing I have wondered about ... is that, in English, we say "shoot" (at least here in the southeastern USA) to avoid saying the four letter word beginning with s that I shall not mention here ... and I have often wondered if maybe also "sjutton" is used as a similar alternative word for the similarly spelled Swedish swear word.
Ja, du har rätt, jag har fel. Svordom är det rätt ordet jag menade, inte förbannelse. Svenska är mitt modersmål, men jag har bott i Nederländerna i många år sedan jag var ett barn och jag använder detta språk inte den nog. Att inte glömma min Svenska övar jag det med Duolingo.
For reference, this is the page: https://www.duolingo.com/dictionary/Swedish/fyrtio/888b84cad41c6d635ffc41220f2e689b
The audio is honestly not that bad. I can see why someone might mishear it in English, but that's not really a reason to change it.