Extended handshake, smiling eyes and “Haus-ka tu-tus-tua!”
I heard it first when I arrived in Finland. And, I “guessed” it meant what it was supposed to mean, a simple “Nice to meet you.” But, it was only when I began to study Finnish, that I realized the expression used for first-time introductions was, actually quite funny. Quite literally. For what they were really saying — in that straight-faced way — was, “ It is funny to meet you.”
Seriously? Was I all that funny? And was everyone else too, so funny? And the response, is supposed to be, “Kii-tos sa-mo-in.” Which of course, meant, same here. Same here.
Did I really think it was funny to meet you? When I continued studying this strange, yet interestingly, funny though-not-meaning-to-be funny language, I noticed more odd phrases.
Imagine being asked, What is being heard? "Mitä kuuluu!"
And the response, Good. “ Hyvää, Kiitos.” Thank you.
But the question, “Mitä kuuluu?” is “What hears?” literally. "Entä sinä?" And, you?
"Ihaan hyvää, kiitos." Yes, perfectly well, thank you. Like saying, one hears good things.
Except, that they are not responding about the functionings of their auditory senses, but, they are telling you that they are doing well. Which is what they asked you about in the first place…
“Mitä kuuluu?” Do you hear well, What is being heard?
And so began my foraying steps into Finnish. Only to discover more nuggets. Phrases that many a time got straight to the point. Colorful illustrations housed in choice phrases. Some that reflected their distant past.
Perhaps, from the time when Finns used asses, those doddering, stubborn fellas.
Poor asses, wonder why anyone would be an asinine fool? When someone is trying to draw convoluted connections between things that are so far away from each other, such connections, perhaps would confuse even an ass, hence someone could be known for their donkey’s bridge. The phrase is literally that, aasin silta.
Also, in the olden days, when calculators helped people do their math, a calculator was also called an aasin silta. Maybe, just maybe, because the user could not make the connections between those unrelated numbers?
It is nice to see how they use English words and add an “i” to the end of some words to make it their own. So, logically, hotel is hotelli, bus is bussi, and so on. But, you can’t extrapolate a word and think you know the meaning, especially when “porkanna” is not pork but the humble carrot.
How about trying to say kaHvi for coffee (make sure you aspirate the “h”, tough one ain’t it?) and then having to say kofeiniton when you want caffeine-free? The suffix “ton” meaning “without”. That ton of logic beats me. Why not simply say “koffii” instead of making poor English speakers gasp for air while struggling to get the “h” aspirated.
It does not help either, that the word for the pope is not aspirated and is just a long paavi. One has to pronounce the “aa” diphthong. If one doesn’t, there is not much else to distinguish it from its less-worthy cousin, the word for cardboard, pahvi. And listeners be-warned, especially, if I have not done my breathing-out exercises.
"Yeah, I have the vain glory of being the one to make people think I am making pontifical statements, when all I was referring to, was some poor piece of cardboard that was in the rubbish bin!"
Or, how about going into a burger joint and being greeted with Tuuna burgerisi?.. which I quite innocently thought meant “D’ya want a tuna burger?” Only to realize it was their clever usage of English, though not in the way you’d imagine.
And, so my days in this land are days of discovery and laughter. There is always something that can “Tul-la pus-kis-ta.” Something can come out of the bushes, a surprise that can get sprung on you.
Just like when I did a double-take — when I was told that what I had proposed — fitted like a fist in the eye! I thought they meant that I had given them a sock in the eye!
Seems, I could relax after all. All it harmlessly meant was that the proposal suited them perfectly. And that is perhaps, how I came to be with my Finnish man. Yes, the proposal suited me fine, just like a fist in the eye, sopia kuin nyrkki silmään.
Mary Ann Alexander
Published in Duo blog with Mary Ann´s permission
First published in Mary Ann´s personal blog
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