Monday, 24 November 2014

Life is short, mostly dark and gloomy

Christmas is almost here!

To understand better the weird culture I'm coming from, you can have a look at some popular Finnish Christmas Carols (short summaries in English).

Downside: The list is depressingly accurate: most Finnish Christmas carols are exactly like this. There are only few which are neutral instead of outright melancholic, as in, they're not directly mentioning death, poverty or misery. All the cheerful ones are imports and frowned upon by real Finns.

Upside: There are metal versions for most of the songs.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Put out the wrong way

There's an incredibly useful Finnish phrase which I'd really need in other languages too, but it doesn't exist, as far as I can tell.

Here it goes: "put out the wrong way" ("väärin sammutettu") as in, the fire was put out but it was done the wrong way. It is used for mocking a situation where someone cannot legitimately criticize the end result but they criticize the process instead.

The story behind is that a fire brigade is pissed off because a volunteer fire brigade got to the scene first and put out the fire. The real fire brigade arrives and the chief says that the volunteers did put out the fire, but they did it the wrong way.

In everyday life, it can be used like this:

"Isn't this cake delicious?"
"Well yes, but did you really need to use all three bowls for making it?"
"... put out the wrong way."

It's especially useful in kitchens since there are many ways to cook, and the taste should matter more than how the cooking was done.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Get well well

Subjected to boredom, brains tend to generate random thoughts. Here's one from me and one from my better half (you can try to guess which is which).

1) In most languages you say "Get well soon", but in German you say "Gute Besserung", to wish that Besserung (the process of getting well) is not quick but... good. So literally this means "Get well well". Why would the Germans say that? How can the Besserung not be gut?

2) If Big Bang Theory had a porn parody (link NSFW obviously), what would it be called? It cannot be called Big Bang Theory because the original series is already called that. Big BANG Theory?

Thursday, 13 November 2014


I'd like to tell you about a funny language situation that happened in a suburban train this week. I boarded the train after a middle-age-plus woman. She walked along the aisle, looking for a seat. There was an empty one, she didn't take it, so I took it. Then she changed her mind, turned back, saw that I had taken the seat, and mumbled: "... Wurst..." (sausage). I was so proud that I understood why she would mumble that! ("Wurst" = "egal" = "the same" = something you don't care about. "Es ist mir Wurst" = "It's sausage to me" = "I don't care about it".) I'm sure that would've utterly confused me 3 years ago. Why would the lady mumble "sausage"?

Next topic: random things people tell me because I have a language blog.

1) Apropos mnemonics

There's a German memonic: MesseR - Rechts (knife - right) + GabeL - Links (fork - left), so, when setting a table, the knife goes to the right and the fork to the left.

And a Finnish joke about a mnemonic: Why do women like to drive a Volvo? Because it has such a handy mnemonic on the steering wheel: VolvO, V like "vasemmalle" (to the left) and O like "oikealle" (to the right). Notable was that this joke was told by a German, and I had never heard of it before.

2) Apropos comma and its usefulness in marriages

By the way, an offensive Finnish expression for somebody who pays too much attention to detail is literally "comma fucker" (pilkunnussija). An almost equivalent German term is "Korinthenkacker" (raisin pooper).

There are plenty of creative ways to insult people in German. For example, you can say that someone is a "Schattenparker" (somebody who parks his car in the shade), "Warmduscher" (somebody who takes warm showers), Frauenversteher (somebody who understands women), Jeans-Bügler (somebody who irons his jeans) or Handschuhschneeballwerfer (somebody who throws snowballs with his gloves on).