This week, the winter returned with a vengeance in the UK. Temperatures have plummeted, and the weather forecasters are getting ready to roll out the hyperbolical meteorological clichés (Arctic conditions, Siberian winds, etc.). It was actually +2C/36F in Southern England today, but then what do Brits know about cold, huh?
Anyhow, for some unknown reason, I was reminded today of an anecdote involving my early fumblings with the Finnish language.
I had just started to travel regularly to Helsinki, and was attempting to learn a few words of Finnish. In common with most beginners, my vocabulary was very eclectic, ranging from food stuff picked up from menus to very rude words taught by well meaning natives.
Obviously, I was keen to use my vocabulary (the clean stuff at least) at every opportunity. Being fairly constrained in my fluency though, I would resort to inserting random Finnish words into my English sentences. With mixed results.
And it so it came that on a cold winter's day (Finnish cold, not British cold), I walked into the Helsinki office of my then-employers, and proudly informed my colleagues: "I lost my peppu in the hotel last night."
Instead of the round of compliments I was expecting for my valient efforts in Finnish, I was confronted with bemused faces. Understandably really, because I had just announced that I had lost my bottom in the hotel the night before. This was clearly not the type of news one usually shares with colleagues.
Not realising my mistake though, I tried to clarify what I meant: "You know, peppu, keeps your head warm?"
That's when one of my colleagues explained that the word I was probably looking for was pipo, the Finnish word for a wooly hat.
Damn, I was so close, and yet so wrong.