Wednesday, 7 August 2013

A cookie to take with

For non-geeks: When a web site shows you data, it can also tell your browser "set this cookie" (which is just a piece of information), and when you request data again, the cookie is sent back, and that's how the web site recognizes you.

This term "cookie" is difficult to translate, because it doesn't mean much and has nothing to do with the actual cookie.

However, in Finnish it has been translated ingeniously to "eväste". Let's have a look why.

"Eväs" (pl. "eväät") is food you take with, for example, on a hike or a train trip. Typical "eväät" is a sandwich, blackcurrant juice and maybe an apple. I'm not aware of an English word that would be an exact translation. "Packed lunch" is the closest that I know, but it seems somehow more restrictive. "Eväs" doesn't necessarily need to be lunch, it can be eaten any time of day. You can take "eväs" with you if you know you need to walk (crawl) back a long way from the bar past midnight, and calling this "packed lunch" seems weird.

The "te" suffix can be used for deriving words like this:
tieto = information
tiedottaa = to inform
tiedote = announcement (something that contains information)

eväs = food to take with
evästää = (abstract) to give advice before something big, so, to give advice "to take with"
eväste = to follow the logic, this must mean something that contains "eväs"; it's not used outside the technical meaning

But then again:

sammuttaa = to put off out a fire
sammute = a chemical that can be used to put off out a fire

Okay, I have no idea what the "te" suffix actually means. Yet, I'm able to speak the language. Weird.

I can imagine that when the HTTP request travels to the server, it needs a packed lunch to eat along the way. Something tasty. Like a cookie.


  1. Brotzeit!

    (Or more old-fashioned: Wegzehrung).

  2. Reiseproviant, Marschverpflegung.

  3. Can Brotzeit be something that doesn't involve bread at all?

    I'm delighted to see how diverse "eväs"-vocabulary German has :)

  4. Nit: That'd be "put _out_ a fire". Putting off a fire is something a procrastinating pyromaniac would do:)

  5. The English term "cookie", as applied to the Web, comes (via a few steps) from a fortune cookie, which is that crunchy folded cookie with a piece of paper inside that you'll often get at Chinese restaurants in the US (and elsewhere, although not in China).