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."


  1. The English equivalent for the German Latte, in its literal meaning anyway, would be the non-false-friend "lath". But figuratively, "wood" is a better match.

    And another example for you: preservative in English; préservatif in French: condom. Don't complain that your marmalade contains préservatifs... unless it does, in which case you have good cause for being upset.

  2. Also, "puszi" (pronounced as "pussy") in Hungarian means "kiss on the cheek". Makes for a very good excuse for saying "I want pussy" :)

  3. Also, in Swedish, "puss" = kiss, and in Finnish "pusu". And "pusi pusi" or "pus pus" is the sound imitating kissing (so you can also say "pusi pusi" as a farewell to your squeeze, though it's a bit old fashioned).

  4. If you wash your cloths manually, the part where you knead the cloths, that was the original meaning of the german word ficken. But only few people know that context.

  5. It was pointed out to me that:

    1) That "katso merta" means "look at the sea" in Finnish, and "cazzo merda" means "dick shit".

    2) in German "dick" means "thick" and even though this joke is old and bad, that doesn't seem to be a problem in this blog in general.

  6. I just got to Finland for the first time in my life, to Kuopio to go ice skating in the Marathon, on the lake. My son Jason and I went into a second-hand store looking for wool items; and found a few; and went to check out; and there was a sign that said "Muovipussi 0.25" . I asked the cashier what it meant and she explained that you could buy a plastic bag for a quarter. She even took a great photo of me with my camera holding our purchases and the pussi for sale for a quarter sign. So Jason and I are a few feet away getting dressed to go out into the minus 14 temperature of Kuopio, which takes awhile; and the cashier and her friend burst out laughing and she looks over at me and says "And we just realize what you thought was so funny."

    That's what this blog entry was about, I think; but seems to me that something real special is going on with the Finns and -pussi. I've looked up everything I could find on the internet, and it looks to me like the Finns USED to know.