Monday, 25 February 2013

Fur gloves in a basket

If your relationship ends If you get rejected in German, you'll "get a basket". Namely, to "give a basket" (einen Korb geben) means to dump reject somebody.

On the other hand, if you get rejected in Finnish, you'll get a pair of gloves, typically fur gloves, instead. "To give gloves" (antaa rukkaset) means to reject somebody, for example, reject a proposal. 

If it was good riddance, you might have just avoided being "under the slipper" (unter dem Pantoffel stehen, olla tossun alla) in both languages. That typically means the position of a husband of a bossy wife.

After avoiding all those traps, Finnish couples still need to fight over who "decides where to place the wardrobe" (näyttää kaapin paikan), that is, the partner who makes the decisions in the relationship. In English and German, it's more important who "wears the pants" or "hat die Hosen an".

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Found in translation

There are two words which have been curiously mistranslated from Swedish to Finnish:

1) Domkyrka (tuomiokirkko). Dom = dome, but also doom, and kyrka = church. So, it means "dome church" in Swedish, but it was translated to Finnish as if it was "doom church". (The Finnish words for "dome", "kupoli", and "doom", "tuomio", are not similar to each other.)

2) Svartsjuk (mustasukkaisuus). Svart = black, sjuk = sick, and "blacksick" in Swedish means "jealous". But "sick" sounds like "sock" (and "sjuk" sounds like the Finnish word for sock, "sukka"), so it was translated to "black socked".

I wonder if this phenomenon exists between other languages!

(I've heard that the "glass slipper" in Cinderella would be a mistranslation of "fur slipper", but I'm not so sure if it's true... )

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Tuesday greasy

Today is Mardi Gras, literally, "greasy Tuesday", or "Tuesday greasy", to be more accurate, since some languages like to put the noun first and the adjective second, and use other Yoda-like constructs. In English, it's apparently "Shrove Tuesday" or "Fat Tuesday".

In German, it's part of Fasching or Fastnacht, which, etymologically, derive from fasting.

In Finnish, the word "laskiainen", a word similar to descent ("lasku") or descending ("laskeutua"). Religious entities claim that "laskiainen" means descending from normal life to fasting. Ask anybody else, and the answer is that it refers to the most popular Mardi Gras amusement, descending down a hill on a pulk (yes, it is an English word, comes from the Finnish "pulkka").

Linguistics aside, a fun cultural fact: Fasching in Germany looks very much like 1st of May in Finland, in terms of people wearing funny clothes.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

16 shades of white

It's an urban legend that Eskimos have an unusually large amount of words for snow.  

I wanted to prove that there are not that many words for snow in Finnish, and I started listing the words which are part of my active vocabulary. When I got to the "word for snow stuck under a hoof of a horse", I knew it wasn't a great success.

Snow in different temperatures:
loska, sohjo (slush, between snow and water, on the ground)
räntä (sleet, between snow and water, when it's falling from the sky)
suvilumi, suojalumi (moist snow, occurs when the temperature is close to 0 C or above, ideal for building snow castles)
pakkaslumi (lightweight snow when the temperature is considerably below 0 C)
puuterilumi (powder-like, very lightweight snow, this term is mostly used by snowboarders)

Snow formations, snow in different places:
tykkylumi (semi-moist snow which piles on trees or roofs)
hanki (even layer of snow covering the ground)
hankiainen (the crust of such a layer, but only when it's hard enough to walk on)
kinos (snow piles formed by the wind or such)
tiera, tilsa (snow stuck under the hoof of a horse, bottom of a ski, or a similar place)

Ice formations, ice in different places:
kuura (frost on the ground)
huurre (frost in other places)
kuurankukka (snowflake-like ice formation on a glass pane)
riite (very thin ice on a lake)

For the curious, here is a longer list of snow-related words in Finnish, but most of them are not even part of my passive vocabulary.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

What rains?

When "it rains" or "es regnet", have you ever thought about what rains? Soon you will know.

It's the Numen.

Numen is an all-encompassing spirit, will, or entity, which is omnipresent and does things like raining or snowing, whenever it feels like it.

In Finnish, we don't have numen, but we just say "Rains." ("Sataa.") which suits our terse way of expressing ourselves just fine. We can also say "Outside rains." ("Ulkona sataa."), but "outside" is not the subject of the sentence; a more accurate translation would be "Rains outside.". We don't have a word for the verb "snow", so we just say "Rains snow." ("Sataa lunta."), but snow is again not the subject of the sentence, but the object. All these are perfectly valid Finnish sentences, even though the last two are a bit more verbose than we'd like to.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Frisur egal

The other day I went to a hairdresser to get a haircut. They didn't really speak English, so I tried to handle the situation with my incomplete German.

I explained that I want my hair "ein bisschen kürtzer, aber nicht zu viel... ich möchte einen, err... uh... Ponytail (waving hands) machen". They looked at me in confusion, then: "Ahh! Pferdeschwanz!" My strategy of just using the English word, trying to pretend it's a German word, didn't quite cut it. It was quite close though (ponytail vs. horsetail).

I told about this to a German friend, and he said that das der Pony is a different kind of hairstyle, in English fringe. (Did you know that word? I didn't.) That was a close call!

The discussion then moved on to Vokuhila which is a German word for a horrible hairstyle (vorne kurz, hinten lang).

And as always, there is a third level, when I told yet another group of German friends about these discussions. One of them told this joke: "Suche einen Mann mit Pferdeschwanz, Frisur egal."

I'm not going to translate it.