Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Why I Know So Many Rude Finnish Words...

Swearing is not big and it's not clever. However, it can be both therapeutic and amusing in any language.

As it happens, rude words are one of my specialist subjects in Finnish! I'm not proud if it, but it is.

Rude words are often the first words one learns in a foreign language. Indeed, in the early days of my Finnish learning career, such words probably accounted for over 50% of my vocabulary!

And yet, in any language, if a foreigner uses rude words or slang, it's at best comical and more often just wrong. So why is it that we end up learning such words if we can't use them?

Firstly, I would postulate that swear words are easily identifiable in a conversation because they are emphasised and often repeated. For example I learned the Finnish swearing trinity of "vittu, saatana, perkele" on football pitches in Helsinki. At first, I thought those words meant something like "oh dear, I somehow failed to score despite being in front of the empty goal" or "I say old chap, that tackle was rather vigorous". Of course it was soon clear those words were in fact RUDE. The v-word (one of the rudest and most common Finnish swear words) refers to the female genitalia and is used pretty much in the same way as the f-word in English. The slightly less offensive s- and p-words both refer to the devil. Thus predictably, the VSP combination expresses a real irritation or frustration. Hence the football connection.

The second reason why foreigners learn rude words quickly is because the natives find it funny to teach them those words. I remember quite clearly having a nice lunch at a terrace in Helsinki on a warm summer's day with some (male) colleagues when the subject of whether to have eggs in our salads came up. I already knew the word for egg (muna), but one of my colleagues could not resist teaching me that it also referred to the male genitalia. Cue Finnish sniggers about whether I wanted muna in my salaatti. Hohoho!

On an other occasion, I was having dinner with colleagues in Vienna of all places, when the bottled water I had ordered was placed in front of me. The water was "Acqua Panna" from Italy. The Finns around me could began to snigger. It turns out "panna" means not only "to put, to insert, to stick", but also an action of a sexual nature. Cue: "Dying for panna?" Hohoho!

Acqua Panna
And this brings me to the 3rd reason: people the world over find it hilarious when foreign names or brands are actually rude sounding in their own language. There were many Finnish sniggers when I mentioned that one of the best schools in the UK was the Perse School in Cambridge. Perse is Finnish for "arse/ass". Cue: "So what do they learn in the Perse School then?". Hohoho!
Perse School
Another fine example that was doing the rounds in Finnish emails and social media about a year ago was that of a lovely boutique hotel in Vietnam founded by an Australo-Khmer couple. Rather sweetly, they named the hotel after their two children, Pippa and Eli. Thus, the hotel is called "Pippeli Pensione". How were that couple to know that, on the other side of the planet, in a country far, far to the North, pippeli means... willy? Cue Finnish sniggers! And it gets even funnier for Finns, as they notice that Pippeli Pensione offers 3 packages (snigger!): Pippeli Independent, Pippeli Explorer and Pippeli Romance. HOHOHO!

Pimppeli Pensione
I am sure readers of this blog can contribute further examples of amusing names and brands, thus possibly enhancing my (and other students') vocabulary.

But remember: we already know quite few rude words in Finnish and swearing is neither big nor clever!

20 comments:

  1. HA HA HA HA HA HA...I can't stop laughing now. THANKS! :-D Sometimes I also use word jokes like these with hubby's relatives like MIL and BIL and SIL LOL!!!! :-D

    ReplyDelete
  2. Haha, this was hilarious :D

    Recently there was an article about funny names that Finnish people laught at when they go abroad... :D http://www.iltalehti.fi/matkajutut/2012010415039117_ma.shtml

    The list includes El Pillu, a restaurant (pillu = same as vittu), and Multatuli, a hotel (multa tuli = I came, as in during sex). :D

    There are hilarious places in Finland too ( http://www.riemurasia.net/jylppy/media.php?id=28603 ), such as Isomulkku (big cock), Mulkkusaari (Cock island), Kivesjärvi (testical lake), Kivesvaara (testical pitfall) Horo (ho), Kusipää (asshole), Peräsuolijoki (rectal river), Hevonperse and Jäniksenvittu (horse's arse and rabbit's genitalia), Tissinpohja (bottom of a tit), Mulkkujärvi (Cock lake), Terska (Glans penis), Ämmänpieru (fart of a nasty lady) and Paskakaarre (shit curve, yeah, REALLY). x) It's one thing to laugh at foreign words that happen to mean something in Finnish, but THIS? :D Omg, I'm dying.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahaha! Excellent tutorial Maria! Students of the Finnish language will appreciate this!

      Delete
    2. The etymology of those places are from the old days, when Finland was a part of Sweden and Russia. They'd send cartographers to map out the territory and asked the locals names of the places. It was common to tell them bullshit names, but the cartographers had no sense of humor (or didn't understand the language or meaning), so those names were eventually written on the official maps.

      Delete
  3. Oh, and there is of course a place called Koskenkorva. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Umm, yes, that's the village where they make Koskenkorva. So about as amusing as the fact that there's a place called Champagne in France :P

      Delete
    2. Amusing still! (I always giggle at Champagne)

      Delete
  4. Funny, these experience must be pretty common, since they all sound like ones I've had.

    On the other hand, the Finnish language can inspire a few snickers from the Russians in my class, who sometimes find words that approximate their own swears. Unfortunately, a good example escapes me at the moment. And there's always " pussi "...

    ReplyDelete
  5. There are some funny ones between Finnish and Japanese. In particular, Japanese people love to laugh at the Finnish surname "Aho", which means "stupid idiot" in Japanese :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. "At Pippeli Pensione your pleasure is our purpose!"

    ReplyDelete
  7. One of my long Monterey tours involved a group we thought to be GErmans, with the last name Nordberg or so. Since I was the German speaker in the tour company, they sent me. Naturally, it was the one and only time I overslept the alarm clock, and to my shock, was arriving 45 minutes late.

    When I pulled up to the hotel in the bus, I saw that these Germans were in fact all Finnish men - the plaid pants and weird shoes and strange haircuts and glasses said it all. Their leader approached me, pointed to his watch and said in that deep flat Finnish way, "You are late."

    I looked at my own watch and said, "Sataana perkkele! You are RIGHT!"

    I had a great time with them after that - especially playing Tapio Routavaara down the misty Highway 1 coastline.

    ReplyDelete
  8. There is a place called Pallivaha in Turku, there is a church and everything. I find it hilarious. Apparently it means in old style Finnish, palli=seat and vaha=a rock. But with more modern Finnish it is bollock wax.

    ReplyDelete
  9. In Swedish, " eight, seven, six" is "åtta, sju, sex" which apparently sounds like "ottaa suu seksi" which, I'm told, is bad Finnish for "to receive oral sex". This is apparently quite amusing to some people.
    Also, in Norwegian, "pekka" supposedly means penis (or is perhaps slang for penis), so people find the Finnish jokes about Jukka and Pekka especially amusing.

    ReplyDelete
  10. By the way Perkele is not Satan it is one of the Ukko’s (Ylijumala=supreme god) name. He is one of the oldest Finnish god’s.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perkele
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukko

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is indeed the origin, but as one of the article you refer says: "As Christianity was introduced to Finland, the church started demonizing the Finnish gods. This led to the use of "Perkele" as a translation for 'devil' in the Finnish translation of the Bible." So we are both right!

      Delete
    2. Good point and you are right :). For me it have not been Satan name never, but other hand I’m not Christian (or part of any religion).
      By the way I found you blog today and this is very interesting indeed – thank you.

      Delete
    3. BTW, ylijumala actually doesn't mean supreme god but "god above", referring to the god of sky/heaven/air/clouds etc.

      Delete
  11. You must have heard about Pillu's Engineering in Dar-es-Salaam. Main attraction for Finnish tourists. (Google finds it.)

    ReplyDelete
  12. I realize this is an old article, but i just have to post an example of how things can go wrong for us finns too...

    My teacher told me a story about a finnish cookie company who were launching a new brand targeted to american markets. However they had chosen a rather unfortunate name for their product: Rape. Which is derived from the finnish word "rapea" (crunhy, crispy), but of course takes on a whole new meaning when brought to american customers...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very unfortunate! Thanks for sharing!

      Delete