I lived in Tampere, Finland from 2/99-8/01
I can fool Finns into thinking I am a Finnish native for 5 or 10 minutes at a time, as long as they are drunk and we are in a loud bar and I stick mostly to their non-glossed utterances (“mmm,” “yöö,” “nii”) or simple phrases (“selva,” “mitä kuulu?” “yksi oluta, kiitos,” “onneas tulta?”) which comprise the bulk of their strangely aphasic communication style. Finns pride themselves on not speaking much. This happened to me more than once, I’d be standing at a bar, exchanging pleasantries with a stranger for a few minutes, and then he’d launch into a longer bit of conversation, expecting me to understand. C’mon ya moron, there’s only 5 million Finns, it’s a small fucking gene pool, and my eyes are too far apart to be a native! Anyway, a well placed “mmm” with the correct intonation is generally considered an appropriate response to nearly anything anyone says, and I could string along a friendly drunk for a while that way.
When I first moved there, I took one class in the language, sponsored by my employer. I didn’t take a second class, for an interesting reason. The teacher explained that she was from somewhere in the East, I think Joensuu, and pointed out how she said things a bit different from speakers in Helsinki. No way! That’s like learning English from someone who grew up in Texas, you’re going to pick up their accent and sound like a freaking moron! I never went back, and tried to focus on aping people from Tampere or Helsinki for the most part, so I’d sound smarter.
I did learn one of my favorite Finnish words in that day: Urrvelta. You see, where the Eskimos have like a zillion words for snow, the Finns have a zillion words for being drunk… And “Urrvelta” is the name for the sound – not the sound itself, but the name for the sound – made by a man – not a woman, but a man – in the final stages of drunkenness. Only the Finns would have this word.
They also have a zillion words for killing yourself, my favorite in that realm being “menaä yoyo” – to jump into a yoyo, or to make a yoyo of oneself. I.E. to hang oneself. My other two favorite, and rather dirty words are:
Ripsipiirakka – literally “eyebrow pastry,” though it translates more appropriately as “furburger” or “hair pie,” e.g. a vagina, but in a really rude way. Ripsi means eyebrow (or maybe it was eyelash), and a piirakka is a sort of pie. The reason I like it and it’s funny is that a piirakka is usually a specific small sort of pie which is oval shaped and often has a slit on top – in other words, it usually looks tremendously like vagina. It’s also referred to as a “karelian pastry,” is often filled with potatoes, and probably has the same root name as “pierogie.” So, the visual image of a hair pie in this context is a lot funnier than it is in English. To the right you’ll see the best picture I could find of a piirakka (linked to a recipe)
I also direct you to the web site of the Finnish band, Ripsipiirakka Note the unusual form within the heart, behind the band, an oblate circle with strands coming out of it and a slit in the middle. This form is drawn by Finnish schoolchildren to be naughty, and interestingly, in every presidential election, that shape receives quite a few write-in votes. Yes, really. If you get their sense of humor, it sort of makes sense, “pussy for president.”
The other word I quite like is Sisijuusto, which appears to be a more localized slang than ripsipiirakka, since that word gets 4000+ hits on google and I can’t find one for sisijuusto. My spelling in all of this might be really bad, though. Anyway. Sisi (or is it sissi or siisi? not sure) means “ranger” or something like that, the equivalent of a navy Seal, or some other elite fighter. Juusto is a much more familiar word, and means cheese. So, what is this you are saying, it’s “elite forces cheese?”
Well, the meaning (as explained to me by someone very drunk, who insisted I needed to know this word) is “smegma.” He actually didn’t know the word smegma in English (which I’m still not sure applies properly), but had to explain to me that he was referring to the substance found under an unwashed foreskin.
glad I’m circumcised. Sometimes, anyway.
The point of the word, the joke behind it is that the Finnish special forces are SO tough, they can SURVIVE on sisijuusto. You know, smear it on a cracker and live on it for months in the wild. I suppose we might say something like “green beret butter” or “special forces spread.”
So, point being, Finns have awesome dirty words. “Voi Vittu” (roughly equal to motherfucker) just sounds so nasty. “Perkelle” (damn) rolls off the tongue with a earthy growl. Those poor Japanese, who basically don’t even have any dirty words, I think the Finns should give them some, because they’ve got plenty to spare.