The email contained a short Finnish text with a series of word plays, which I thought were rather clever – that was the smiley bit. However, as I reached repeatedly for the dictionary to try and decipher the text, I also realised how far I was from ever understanding Finnish – and that was the seriously frustrating bit.
The text plays of the fact that some Finnish verbs in the infinitive form look identical to particular nouns in the "elatiivi" case (the noun case with a -sta/-stä ending that indicates provenance from somewhere). So the series of sentences can be interpreted as "someone started from something" or "someone started to do something".These are not hilarious puns, just clever ones.
Below is the original text in Finnish, and a tentative English translation (it is a fairly tricky text to translate, and no doubt some readers will want to offer better interpretations).
|Suomen kieli - ihana kieli||The Finnish Language - A Wonderful language|
|Mistä kaikki alkoi?||Where did it all begin?|
|Räätäli alkoi napista||The tailor began with a button / to complain|
|Merimies alkoi hytistä.||The sailor started from the cabin / to tremble|
|Vauva alkoi tutista.||The baby began with a pacifier / to tremble|
|Satakuntalaiset alkoivat porista.||People from the Satakunta region started from Pori / to hum|
|Pohjoiskarjalaiset alkoivat kolista.||People from North-Karelia started from Koli / to clack|
|Narkkari alkoi piristä.||The junkie began with speed / to tinkle|
|Kännykkämies alkoi jupista.||The mobile-phone guy began as a yuppie / to mutter|
|Muusikko alkoi rapista.||The musician began with rap / to rustle|
|Mielisairas alkoi pöpistä.||The lunatic started by being nuts / to mumble|
|Sotamies alkoi lotista.||The soldier began with Lotta (a Finnish voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organisation for women) / to squelch|
|Puuseppä alkoi rahista.||The carpenter began with a footstool / to scrape|
|Laiva alkoi karista.||The ship started from the rocks / to fall down|
|Saapas alkoi kumista.||The boot started from rubber / to peel|
|Punoja alkoi korista.||The weaver began with the basket / to wheeze|
|Kalastaja alkoi kuhista||The fisherman began with a perch / to crawl|
|Tiskaaja alkoi mukista.||The washer of dishes began with a mug / to growl|
|Automekaanikko alkoi rämistä.||The car mechanic began with a rattletrap / to rattle|
|Kemisti alkoi kalista.||The chemist began with potash / to clatter|
|Pankkiiri alkoi kopista.||The banker started from the KOP bank / to clatter|
|Metsästäjät alkoivat supista.||The hunters began with a raccoon / to murmur|
|Vuohi alkoi kilistä.||The goat started as a kid / to jangle|
|Siivooja alkoi rätistä.||The cleaner began with a rag / to crackle|
|Nalle alkoi puhista.||The teddy-bear started from (Winnie the) Pooh / to wheeze|
|Maalari alkoi väristä.||The painter began with colour / to shiver|
|Metsästäjä alkoi kutista.||The hunter began with a bullet / to itch|
Joku sanoo, että ulkomaalaisen on muka vaikea ymmärtää suomalaisten puhetta tai saada siitä jotain tolkkua!
And some people claim that it's difficult for foreigners to understand spoken Finnish or to make any sense of it!
Well yes, some people dare to claim that Finnish is a difficult language to understand! In fairness, play on words are always bit of a challenge in any foreign language, and in this case, the real difficulty for someone like me is actually the lack of vocabulary.
Still, thanks to this text, "this foreigner started with the dictionary / to learn".
Special thanks to Simo for forwarding the text and for providing the bulk of the trasnslation.