Monday, 24 June 2013

What is allowed to be?

The main Finnish newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat publishes a controversial comic, Fingerpori. It is an awesome piece of culture, and offensive on multiple levels, but sadly, most jokes are based on wordplay, so I cannot share the joy with my non-Finnish-speaking friends.

But today they have a joke which works both in Finnish and in German:

Wittgenstein am Imbiss:
"Was darf es sein?"
"Die Frage ist sinnlos."

In English it doesn't work:
Wittgenstein at a hotdog stand:
"What is allowed to be?" "What is allowed to be it?" (This is a slightly old-fashioned (at least in Finnish) way to ask what the customer would like to have.)
"The question makes no sense."

Thursday, 6 June 2013

With false friends like this, I don't need enemies

To get this blog back on track, we'll have a look at words which have different meanings in different languages in a way that might bring unintentional comedy into your life.

persze in Hungarian: of course & perse in Finnish: ass

I had a Hungarian colleague in Finland, and he told this story: He was sitting on a bus, talking on the phone with his mom, going like "persze, persze" (of course, of course) in a bored tone of voice. An older Finnish lady was giving him the most angry and confused looks for saying "ass, ass" in a public place.

latte in Italian: milk & Latte in German: block of wood

It's a bit hard to explain what "Latte" exactly means. As far as I know, a very close Finnish translation would be "parru". The closest English translation I can come up with would be "block of wood", in the context of male genitalia. For example, "Morgenlatte" is "morning wood".

So, in Germany you need to be careful to order a "Cafe Latte" or "Latte Macchiato". If you order just "eine Latte", you might not get what you wanted. Or what do I know.


... or a Latte?

Additional information: My colleagues kindly pointed out that "Latte" is in fact not this thick piece of wood, but a thin one, which is used e.g., between walls and floors (in English "lath", in Finnish "rima"). So here the German language and the Finnish language differ; in Finnish the double meaning is only associated with the thick type.

More information here:

ficka in Swedish: pocket & ficken in German: to fuck

This one is best explained in pictures.

A "pocket info" we saw in some office in Finland (note the relevant picture) which we thought might amuse our German friends:

(Swedish is the second official language in Finland, so brochures like this are in both languages.)

Ficklampa ("pocket lamp" = flashlight)...

... or a ficklampa?

pussi in Finnish: bag & pussy in English

And now I've reached the point of "I better stop now. Right. Now."