Friday, 20 May 2011

Before and After

In every language, there are words that have several meanings. But how about a word that means one thing and virtually the opposite also?

When I first came across the Finnish word “sitten”, it was in the context of giving directions: “käänny vasemmalle sitten mene suoraan eteenpäin” (“turn left, then go straight ahead”). So I associated the word “sitten” with the concept of something that happens afterwards.

But later, I started hearing expressions involving time like “tunti sitten” (tunti = hour) or “kaksi vuotta sitten” (kaksi vuotta = 2 years). Using my great powers of deduction, and given “sitten” seemed to mean “afterwards”, I concluded that those expressions must mean “one hour later” and “two years later”, or maybe even “in one hour” and “two years from now”.


Because in that context, “sitten” means the exact opposite, i.e “one hour ago” and “two years ago”.

So “sitten” can mean both “then” (i.e. afterwards) and “ago” (i.e. before). Oh, and it can also mean “since”...

Is it any wonder I am struggling with the language?


  1. I know what you mean. But it must be us. According to my Finnish text book, Finnish is not a difficult language. It's just "different".

  2. "Argh!" I think that comprehensively expresses my relationship with the Finnish language.