In other words, this single picture is a neat summary of this whole blog, no less.
The picture shows what looks like a bearded druid against the background of some Finnish version of the Japanese imperial flag. The druid is holding a zither in one hand and brandishing an unopened bottle of Koskenkorva vodka in the other. The significance of the picture is a little lost on me (I think it is a meme originating from the "Finnish Problems" blog - maybe some kind reader could shed more light on this), but the caption above the picture reads:
"I wonder if I should run around aimlessly?"
While the caption below the picture says:
= "Juoksentelisinkohan?"The Finns who shared this picture on various social networks seemed to revel in the fact that it showed how Finnish is able to express in just one word something that takes 8 words in English.
For me, the picture (or rather its caption) only served to remind me of a number of points I have made about the trickiness of the Finnish language:
- Finnish words are long, very long: There aren't that many words in English that have 19 letters, but then English does not typically allow to concatenate words endlessly like Finnish does! In this case, the word "juoksentelisinkohan" (which you won't find in a dictionary) is essentially made up of 3 bits: "juoksentelisin", "ko" and "han"
- Finnish has an odd way of forming polar questions: Finnish yes/no questions are formed by adding a "-ko", while the spoken intonation remains pretty flat. So unless you spot the "ko" in the word, you have no idea you are being asked a question.
- You can add funny endings to words almost at will: In this context, the suffix "-han" is added to mean "I wonder if" (cunningly, "-han" can also mean lots of other things, including "surely", "after all", "go ahead" and "why don't you?")
- Finnish letters are very unstable: It's often pretty tough finding the root of a Finnish word (which you need in order to look up its meaning in a dictionary), because letters appear and disappear almost at will. Here "juoksentelisin" is the present conditional form (as indicated by the "isi"-bit near the end) of the verb "juoksennella" ("to run around"). One can but admire how the "nn" of the infinitive form turns into an "nt", and the "ll" becomes a "l"...
One could expect the verb "to run" to be "juoksen-something", But that's forgetting the "unstable Finnish letters" (see point 4 above). In fact, while "I run" is indeed "juoksen", the infinitive (which you need for the dictionary) is "juosta". In other words, the "st" of the infinitive becomes "ks" when conjugated. Similarly, "nousta" ("to rise") becomes.... errr, hold on... nope, it doesn't become "nouksen", it becomes "nousen" ("I rise"), i.e. without a "k".
OK, so I have now totally over-analysed a joke... But I do take Finnish very seriously, you know!
Maybe I should go and run around aimlessly to let off some steam now...