Saturday, 30 March 2013

The audience demands blood

On a reader's request, today's topic is menstruation:

Or rather, different expressions for "that time of a month" (which is a popular but lame euphemism found in many languages).

The prude Germans say "die Tage" (the days) or "besuch von Tante Irma" (aunt Irma is visiting). Or: "die Roten kommen" (the red army is coming).

In Finnish, the 99% use case is covered by the slang word "menkat" (etymology obvious). And for language usage situations which demand a bit unclearer expression, we have "puolukkapäivät" meaning "lingonberry days".

I've also heard a rumour that in Finnish mothers' website, in a support group for people who try to get pregnant, they use the expression "Schumi kurvaa paikalle punaisella autollaan", meaning "Schumi (Michael Schumacher) drives in with his red car".

In Italian, instead of Aunt Irma, their cousin Giorgio comes to visit. Poor guys called Giorgio!

But it's not much better for Finnish men called Jorma or men from English speaking countries called Dick (or Richard). (For the uninitiated in the Finnish language, these two mean the same thing.)

And to move from the euphemisms to bad language puns, the fellow German learners, or elementary school students reading this blog might... oh, whatever.

For understanding the following joke, you need to know that die Regel means not only a rule, but also menstruation. And Bauernregel, a farmer's rule, like what kind of weather on a certain day causes other type of weather on some other day.

Anyway, to the joke:

"Was ist rot und liegt auf dem Feld? Eine alte Bauernregel."

Based on this information, you will also understand this one:

"In der Regel hatten Wikinger rote Bärte."

For the record, the same person that told me these two jokes also told this one:

"Ein Reh bricht aus dem Wald. Blarrrghh." (German learners: brechen = kotzen.)

Do you start to see a pattern?

Anyway, back to the topic.

Apropos blood: Finnish and Hungarian are related languages, but we cannot understand each other and we have very few common words. The word for blood, vér in Hungarian and veri in Finnish, is one of the few words we still share.

I'm aware that making this blog post will increase the inflow of bad jokes insanely. I need to make the following statement:

Menstruation jokes are not funny. Period.


  1. The most common English personification I know of is "Auntie Flo".

  2. Curiously enough, in Chinese one of the slang words used is "aunt" , specifically the mother's older sister (since four different words exist for "aunt", depending on father's or mother's side and whether they are older or younger siblings, and modulo a lot of regional varieties).

    1. The Chinese language continues to fascinate me. In Finnish we have different words for uncle, depending on if it's the father's or the mother's side. The word for aunt is the same, and also it doesn't matter if it's the younger or older sibling. But you seem to be really specific.

      The uncle vs. uncle difference in Finnish lead into difficulties when Donald Duck was translated into Finnish. They used the word "father's side uncle" when describing the relation between Donald and the triplet. And later on when Don Rosa started drawing these historical comics, it became clear that Donald is actually a mother's side uncle and it was a bit awkward. Did Chinese have the same problem?

    2. Chinese is very specific about family relations. For example, there are different words for cousins as well, depending on sex and whether the family name is shared. Adding regional differences, it's often very hard to know the title for far relatives. I usually ask to make sure what words to use when we visit relatives that we dont visit often.

      I don't know any examples for the kind of translation difficulties that you mentioned though.

  3. I had a landlord once whose name was John Trickey. But, feeling that "tricky" would not inspire trust, he made the unfortunate decision to use the business pseudonym "John Thomas".