Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Most pregnant

Since I've successfully finished being pregnant some time ago, here it comes: the pregnancy kitchen linguistics post!

In addition to having a bun in the oven, the word "pregnant" means "Having numerous possibilities or implications; full of promise; abounding in ability, resources", and the most common non-pregnancy-related usage is of course "a pregnant pause".

(Curiously, there are also comparative and superlative forms for "pregnant" - and at some point "most pregnant" was indeed very descriptive.)

However, the English word doesn't give justice to the 24/7/40 feeling of "kill me, kill me now" the same way the corresponding Finnish word does. "Raskaus" (pregnancy) means literally "heaviness", but in addition to "heavy", "raskas" can mean "tedious", "difficult", "painful", or "sad". The origin is maybe (this is kitchen linguistics so we don't really care) the Latin-based "gravidity" (note: gravity).

Side track: Germans, so politically correct. Before moving to Germany, when my husband was browsing jobs online, he saw job titles like "Software Engineer (m / w)" and asked me what "m / w" meant. I said "well, it could mean männlich / weiblich (male / female), but that would be a bit silly, I don't know...". Turns out it really means that. Names of occupations such as "Engineer" have a much stronger association to the male gender than in English, and if you use "Engineer" as is, it'll mean "male engineer". There are several linguistic and typographical hacks and forms of varying awkwardness to make words include both genders.

Another instance of German online political correctness can be found on university websites: Wintersemester is abbreviated "WS", but Sommersemester is abbreviated "SoSe". After a second, it's obvious why.

However, Germans have no problems with abbreviating Schwangerschaft (pregnancy) "SS" in the colloquial Internet. Once I felt slightly weird clicking a discussion thread link "Lachsschinken in der SS" (after googling whether it's allowed to eat this type of ham). For a moment I feared that the discussion might after all be about the culinary preferences of the said organization...

By the way, Germans also colloquially abbreviate Muttermund (cervix, literally "mother mouth") "MuMu", which is cutely creepy or creepily cute depending on which way you look at it.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Ludwig Theodor Theodor

In the last two weeks, I've had the following discussion almost every day (ton of paperwork, the post strike, missing letters, spelling difficulties).

"Heinrich, Ökonom, Ludwig, Theodor, Theodor, Ärger"
"Hä? Also Heinrich, Ökonom, Ludwig, Ludwig, Theodor..."
"Nein, Ludwig Theodor Theodor!"

So like this:

And not:

(How hard can it be?)

Here's a useful bit of information for non-Germans trying to get by in German: Buchstabiertafel. Curiously, Ä is Äquator, which is spelled with e in most countries (equator), the same for Ökonom (economist). And both Äquator and Ärger are pronounced with E, at least in my opinion (but I already observed that Finns and Germans perceive the boundary between Ä and E differently).

Thursday, 2 July 2015


The German media has found the Finnish word "kalsarikännit" and they apparently find it funny.

I wanted to offer a deeper look into this word, so that Germans and other non-Finns could appreciate the nuances better.

As explained, the word consists of two parts: "kalsari", the singular of "underpants" (kalsarit), and "kännit" (drunkenness). Especially, "kalsarit" refers to old-fashioned male underwear, in the 70s style.

It's also often associated with an essential garment in Finland, long underwear ("pitkät kalsarit"), worn by both genders.

Coincidentally, I'm posting this in July, which is the only month in Finland which you might be able to survive without long underwear.

"Kännit" (plural) or the singular "känni" is usually translated as "drunkenness", but the English word is not nearly as versatile as the Finnish one. For example, you can "take a känni / kännit" and that means getting drunk. You can also attach adjectives to it, e.g., "that was a horrible känni" to describe how it was being drunk. And when you're "in känni" ("kännissä"), you're drunk.

There's a well-known song "jouluaattona kännissä", "drunk in Christmas Eve". And because the French pronunciation is so weird, it sounds exactly the same as "jouluaattona Cannesissa", "Christmas Eve in Cannes". I think it's worth travelling to Cannes during Christmas time just to be able to use this joke in a Facebook status.

(This joke was ruthlessly stolen from my better half without asking him. Haha! Note: he should read the small print of our marriage agreement.)