Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Show Me the Way to a Place with a Very Long Name

The Finnish language has long words. Yeah, we know that. Indeed I have mentioned this many times before in this very blog, including here, here and here.

But what hadn't occurred to me until very recently is what a challenge it might be for road-signs.

A few weeks ago, on my way to Turku aerodrome international airport from the village vibrant town of Huittinen (10,000 inhabitants), I drove past a road-sign indicating the direction to the motor sport centre of Alastaro.

The sign looks like this:

Now just consider for one moment the challenge of accommodating a word with 21 letters (moottoriurheilukeskus), plus the distance (thankfully a mere 2 kilometres).

First, you need to employ all the Finnish engineering know-how to construct a metal sign that is at least double the length of a normal sign (just think of the problem of metal expansion and contraction across the seasons).

Then you have to put it in a place that will not be obstructed by trees and other such inconvenient obstacles. In this case, the sign is placed on a small, purpose-built brick island.

And that sign is big!

Just check out this picture, courtesy of Speedgroup Club Europe (yes, that woman is roughly of average adult size):

That got me wondering: what is the longest place name in Finland?

With the help of a search engine, I determined there was a place in Lapland called Äteritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä. Sadly, it is a bog area, so presumably not needing sign-posting (at least, I couldn't find a photo of one).

One bar owner made a brave attempt to redress this omission by naming his establishment "Äteritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä baari".

Sadly (once more), his bar closed in 2006, presumably because potential customers could never pronounce it: "Let's meet for a drink after work at the Äteritsi... Äteritsiput... Hei, let's meet at Dubliners."

That still leaves the question unanswered though: what is the longest place name with a road-sign in Finland?

Any ideas, dear trivia-loving readers?


  1. Well, it's about 915 km between Dubliner and Äteritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä-baari, so usually that should not have been very hard decision..

    1. Sometimes I do worry that some readers take my posts a little too literally. Well, when I say worry...

      I guess technically I should have written No.14 Cafébar or Pub Papana Pupi. I stand corrected.

    2. Well, you write your posts literally...

  2. Haha! Salla is the place where I grew up! We used to call the bar just "Äteritsi". A place with pure Kaurismäki atmosphere...

  3. I love this post! I will be on the lookout for signs that rival Äteritsi :)

  4. I found that learning German afforded a similar agglutinative experience, or word-slamming fun, as a foreigner trying to summarize something in the new German-think. It was while hitchhiking with a Finn from Keskisuomi for months up and down the German Autobahn that I came up with this one: Die endlose Deutsche Autobahngeschwindigkeitsbegrenzungsverkurzingfrage.

    It was the favorite question (aka a lecture on Germany) about our respective nations' freeway speed limits that German male drivers loved to address. They as a nation had no speed limits - and watch, let me demonstrate right now in the fast lane, girls! - while we in Finland and USA had these very sad and pitiful restraints on us. So the debate would begin. How to make clear that perhaps we valued our lives in other countries? Never mind. Big pile-ups of BMW's and Porsches are fun to see. And see them we did - there were sometimes 30-60 of them shoved to the side of the Autobahn to let the rest of us go, usually blamed on bad fog or ice, NEVER the speed limit, or lack thereof. In California, we have two or three or maybe four hit each other, but never 30 or 60 at once. Could I be mistaken? Well, okay, maybe out in Central Valley on I-5 with bad winter fog, with all the big heavy long trucks and so on...

    What does that Ateritsi.... sign mean anyway?

    The Finns are proud of their tough, hard lives and language. Let them roll in the snow and ice and long, tough words!