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					                                                                                              Tarmo Hietamaa, 79972
                                                                                              tarmo.hietamaa@uta.fi
                                                                                        Translation Studies (English)
                                                                    TRENAK1 Finnish Institutions Research Paper (UK)
                                                                                                        Spring 2008




                          Heated Exchanges in Frozen Land:
                 Finnish Curse Words and Identity in a Contemporary Film


Each culture has its own taboos. Each taboo has its own specific terms of reference, which are often regarded
as “curse” words. Curse words are a part of communication in a given language; they tell something about the
general mindset and cultural background of the people who use them. This paper examines the curse words
used in the contemporary Finnish film Paha maa (Frozen Land; referred to as such hereafter); it identifies the
most frequent Finnish curse words in the film and describes why certain words are used in certain contexts.1
Example phrases from the film are presented, together with their English subtitles as published on the 2005
Solar Films DVD release of the film.
          What kind of Finnish profanity is used in the film Frozen Land, and with what effect? How have the
expressions been translated in the English subtitles? What does the etymology of the profanities in the film
reveal about the Finnish mindset? Does the film show Finns to be heavy swearers? And if they are, what could
be the reasons for such a distinctive national feature?




Pop-Tolstoyan Frozen Land


The theme of the film Frozen Land stems from the short story The Forged Coupon (also published as Faux
Billet) by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, and from the popular song Murheellisten laulujen maa by the Finnish
rock band Eppu Normaali. The film deals with “the passing onwards of wrongdoing” and “spiraling evil and how
hard it is to forgive” (Frozen Land). Frozen Land lifts from Tolstoy the plot element of a forged banknote, which
begins a series of events affecting various people, while the actual story concentrates on those people in their



1   In this paper, the terms curse word and profanity are used synonymously and refer to words of abuse as well.
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own “chapters,” the subheadings of which come from the lyrics of the Eppu Normaali song.2 The film takes
place in present time and starts with a well-liked secondary school literature teacher getting laid off. In despair
at being unemployed, he turns into an alcoholic, and the resulting poor conditions at home affect his teenage
son. Frustrated and feeling neglected, the son forges a 500-euro note and spends it in a small pawnshop,
whose owner, after realising the fraud, passes it on to a former bar worker, a macho loner. The loner, in turn,
gets arrested for trying to pay a restaurant bill with the note, and from there on the “foul mood” passes on with
varying tragedy from person to person, including a spiritless salesman, an over-achieving police officer, a
fragile family man, and some morally lost youngsters. As a pure and powerful drama, the film is fitting for a
study on profanities, since with its more-or-less realistic situations, such expressions function as a “natural”
part of the communication.




Culture, Communication and Curse Words


Curse words are a part of cultural communication, no matter how one views them morally. Jari Tammi states in
the preface of his monolingual Finnish curse word dictionary that “one of the cornerstones of cursing has
traditionally been the taboo aspect” (8; translated by the author). This links profanity to culture, since “a taboo
is a strong social prohibition (or ban) against words [… ] that are considered undesirable or offensive by a
group, culture, or society” (Taboo; emphasis by the author). It logically follows that the reason for speaking out
loud a word which refers to a subject one should not discuss openly in a certain community must be
meaningful as far as communication is concerned. Vice versa, there must also be a reason why the word
should not have been spoken out loud in the first place. Therefore, by looking at the curse words in the film, it
can be deduced to an extent what some of those cultural “cornerstones” include.
       However, curse words, just like any other words, cannot be taken out of context. The way a curse word
is used and the context in which it is used define its actual meaning; also, each individual can react differently
to a given profanity (Profanity). Curse words are used to give verbal forms to both negative and positive
emotions. They are used differently by different people, and also differently according to one’s social status or
group – ranging “from different gangs and sports teams to different professions and cliques” (Tammi 9;
translated by the author). Expanding on the idea of such “cursing conventions” within a social group, Tammi
dubs the Finnish people, as a community, “the paramount cursing nation,” followed in order by the Russians,

2 The two lines in the song from which the subheadings are derived are in Finnish: “Työttömyys, viina, kirves ja perhe, / lumihanki,
poliisi ja viimeinen erhe.” As translated into English in the movie – in the same order as the words in the lyrics – these were
Unemployment, Booze, The Axe, Family, Snowpile, Police and The Last Mistake. The lyrics reflect the hopeless downward spiral of
the stereotypically gloomy Finnish man who is faced with insurmountable obstacles in life. Two different lines from the song are
quoted in the very beginning of the movie, with the song’s title, Murheellisten laulujen maa (1982), translated as A Land of Mournful
Songs.
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Scots and Irish, though they remain far behind. He also implies that the reasons for this “sovereignty” include
Finland’s age-old geographical location, on the outskirts of civilisation between two strong historical powers,
Sweden and Russia; the late arrival and great influence of Christianity in a culture, where the local natural
religion persisted; and the abundant use of alcohol by the Finns. These things, according to Tammi, have
resulted in the stereotypically untalkative Finns having adopted profanity as a fitting way of expressing
themselves (Tammi 7– 9).
        Tammi’s ideas are supported by Roman Schatz, a German-born Finnish writer who discusses Finnish
curse words, among other things, in his satirical book about the Finns’ national character titled From Finland,
with Love,. Although his take on the subject is in the form of humoristic columns, they make valid, albeit
simplified, points from the perspective of an outsider to Finnish society by birth. With his Central European
cultural background, Schatz analyses the alleged heavy swearing by Finns with the following:

                [T]he Finns are a nation of tough guys and gals. They like hard liquor, the steaming hot sauna, sharp frost
                and brutal sports. It’s only logical that they also like strong language. In most cultures swearing is
                considered something you shouldn’t do. In Finland it is an essential part of effective communication. If you
                want to verbally interact successfully with Finns you have to learn to enhance your lingo with those special
                little words that add emotion, depth, and meaning to your message. (Schatz 53)

        On the other hand, it is also important to understand that not all Finns swear, at least in excess and
especially not in public. Then again, some do. Moreover, the concept of Finns as heavy swearers may derive
from foreigners judging some of the curse words as harsher then they might be (Finnish). This could be
evident in the originally Swedish expression “management by perkele,” a concept for perceived Finnish
authoritarian leadership style that prefers almost a military discipline, favouring swift decisions and clear
responsibilities as opposed to consensual decision-making (Management). The expression borrows a Finnish
swearword which has the strong consonants p, r and k in it; such sounds may add to the powerfulness of the
word (see e.g. perkele in Tammi; the word is discussed later in this paper).3 In any case, as stated earlier,
something general can be said about a society by looking at its swearword-exposed taboos. This, in turn, can
be expanded by looking at how those words are used, as will be done next.




Charting Cinematic Curses


As the author’s main expertise within translation is subtitling, examining a film and its subtitles was the most
intriguing option for studying the usage of curse words. The film Frozen Land was chosen for the research
material. This choice was partly subjective, based on the film’s themes, and partly practical, based on the
3 It is noteworthy that the Finnish r sound is also a strong sound, a so-called “rolled r,” which is not found in most varieties of English,
for example.
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ample volume of cursing in the film. It was decided that words of abuse would also be included in addition to
clear expressions of profanity, since abusive language is not socially acceptable and is therefore also a taboo.
      The methodological procedure was as follows. First, the film’s DVD release was viewed together with its
English subtitles; all the lines or sentences that included Finnish profanities were written down, along with the
respective subtitle translations. As the focus of the research was on the usage and translation of the curse
words in the film, writing down their contexts was essential for two reasons: first, a word’s meaning depends
on the context in which it is used; and second, translation is not simply replacing a word in one language with
a word in another language. For example, the sentences He read the paper and She wrote on a piece of paper
use different meanings of the word paper. Further, the Finnish expression Kuin kaksi marjaa could be
translated word-for-word into English as “like two berries,” which is unlikely to be understood correctly by
native English speakers. The corresponding English expression would be like two peas in a pod. Therefore,
since the words could not be examined solely by themselves, their contexts were also taken into account for
the description of their usages in different situations as portrayed in the film.
      Next, the recorded curse words were categorised for analysis. An initial categorisation based on how
the words were used was tested. In this test, four categories were defined, based on how the profanities were
used by the film's characters to verbalise Emphasis, Frustration, Insult or Surprise. This initial categorisation,
however, proved to be difficult: in some cases it was difficult to declare a word as belonging exclusively to only
one of the four categories. Also, it did not seem to lead the research to any concrete direction. The findings
were then analysed again in a different way, which proved to be more suitable. This method categorised the
film’s profanities according to how they had been defined in Tammi’s curse word book, which describes the
five major Finnish curse words. (This subject is covered in the next section.) It was decided to have six
categories in this paper, five for the major profanities and one for those which remained, since it seemed that
the major ones were dominant in the research material as well.
      Then, the numbers of all the instances of the different curse words were counted. (The numbers are
compiled in a table towards the end of the paper.) Finally, the actual analysis of the usage of the words was
carried out, combining the above-mentioned categorisation by curse words with a discussion based on the
ideas gathered during the first categorisation attempt. A summary of this discussion follows.




Finnish “ Effing” in Frozen Land


There were 98 instances of Finnish curse words which were audible in the 127-minute Frozen Land. There
were possibly also a few more which were only partly voiced and were thus not clearly audible. Most of the
profanities used by the characters were harsh (e.g. fuck in English); only a few were mild (e.g. heck). However,
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the milder profanities were usually used in connection with the harsher ones. Such cases are comparable with
bloody hell or fucking shit in English, for example, where the first word is an intensifying premodifier to a
headword. When such compound-like phrases are taken into account, the number of separate instances of
profanities was 90.
       Of the total 98 instances, 75 belonged to the five major Finnish curse words. These five major Finnish
profanities are, in alphabetical order, helvetti, jumalauta, perkele, saatana and vittu. This “Big Five,” so to
speak, is defined by Tammi (581); 4 the very same words are also mentioned by Schatz (53– 55). It is
interesting to note that the first four of the Big Five belong to “biblical vocabulary”, while the last is sexual in
nature (Schatz 53). Moreover, it is stated on the Finnish Wikipedia page on profanity that the two main sources
for profanities are religion and sexuality, but that the Finnish language lacks the coarsest sexual profanities
found in many other languages (Kirosana).5 Indeed, religion seems to play a prominent part in Finnish curse
words, which may often stem from a mixture of Pagan roots and Christian beliefs (Finnish).6 And although
sexual curse words are relatively scarce, one such expression, vittu, the last of the Big Five above, could be
said to clearly preside over any other profanity in the Finnish vocabulary in both its rudeness and widespread
use (Schatz 55; Meri 447; Finnish; Tammi 540– 543).
       The Finnish used by the characters in the film is mostly general spoken language (yleispuhekieli in
Finnish), as opposed to the standard language (yleiskieli) used mainly in journalistic media. This means that,
for example, contracted forms of some words are used, like sä for sinä ‘you.’ (For more on the differences, see
e.g. Spoken Finnish.) The English used in the DVD subtitles seem to be mostly British, although some words
are of American usage. Some of the clearly British usages include bloody as an expletive, MD for ‘managing
director’ and criminal investigations (cf. Criminal Investigations Department in the United Kingdom). The
American influences in the subtitles include [police] precinct and the police command “Freeze!” for instance.
All in all, it would seem reasonable to say the variant of English is mixed, but mostly British.
       The Big Five of Finnish curse words described above will be discussed next, in alphabetical order, with
some etymology as well as examples on how the words have been used and translated into English in the film
Frozen Land. The film’s remaining instances of profanity and words of abuse outside the Big Five will also be
discussed. (Approximate pronunciations for the words are also given in parentheses for speakers of English.)
The punctuation of the Finnish in the examples does not follow standard language guidelines, but conforms

4 On the page referred to, the Big Five can be found under the “curse word category” with the Finnish title Pääkirosanat (pää/5), “The
major curse words (major/5).”
5 The Wikipedia pages referred to in this paper are not taken as definitive sources, as the information therein is susceptible to false

entries. Rather, they are used to illustrate points derived from the consensual ideas of their contributors.
6 The Finnish tribes were converted to Christianity during the 12th and 13th Century Nordic Crusades, which were actually war

campaigns launched by the Swedish Crown. The campaigns resulted in a border agreement between Sweden and Russia in 1323,
dividing Finnish territory between the two empires. Until her independence in 1917, Finland was basically the location of a continually
changing Swedo-Russian border zone, a frustratingly dominated position which could be said to partly explain the Finnish cursing
attitude Tammi refers to, as mentioned in the previous section.
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more to transcription practices. If not otherwise mentioned, the citations in these sections are all sub voce, that
is, from the referred source’s entry for the word in question. These sources include a dictionary of Finnish
curse words by Jari Tammi, a writer and a self-proclaimed “curse guru,” and an etymological reference book
by Veijo Meri, a writer and a scholar of the Finnish language. The quotes from the sources have been
translated by the author (if they had not already been in English). Furthermore, as these dictionaries are in
Finnish, one might find it useful to refer to the English-language Wikipedia page Finnish profanity, for example,
for a short, annotated listing of some of the Finnish curse words; for the list, see the Appendix.


Helvetti [HEL-vet-TEE]


Nowadays the “mildest” of the Big Five, as Tammi describes it, helvetti by itself means the same as the
English word hell. Originally, helvetti has been borrowed by the Finnish from the Swedish language, in which
the equivalent word today is helvete. This word’s origins are in the Germanic languages, in which it was a
compound: the first part of this compound – essentially, the English hell – referred to ‘death’s realm’ and
‘death,’ while the second part meant ‘punishment;’ therefore, the earliest meaning for the Germanic word was
‘capital punishment.’ The word in the Germanic languages was used already in Pagan times, and it was later
adopted for Christian use as the sulphurous site for sinners after their death (Meri; Tammi).
        Among other things, Tammi calls helvetti a straight-forward and rude profanity but also “an excellent
seasoning for sophisticated cursing.” Interestingly enough, the word is used only four times out of the 98
instances of curse words in the film, and out of 75 occurrences of any Big Five word. If Finns could indeed be
said to like strong language, could the mildest of the Big Five then be considered too mild to use in situations
where one really needs to get the message through? Is this word then reserved for “sophisticated cursing,”
that is, for situations in which one would not use the most-rude words for emphasising one’s message, but
nonetheless feel a need to use one of the rudest? This “sophisticatedness” of helvetti could also be seen in its
users: in the film, it is uttered twice by a frustrated car dealer, who is trying to be strict with a penniless
customer who presents him with an idea for a new payment plan; once as an interjection of surprise by a
nervous-wreck police officer who sees a speeding driver; and once more by a sorrow-stricken and subdued
teacher who has been angered by the behaviour of his young son.7 In other words, it is used by people who
are supposed to act respectably by their professional statuses as a customer servant, a role model for the
citizens and an educator of future generations.
        The following are examples from the situations described above, with the respective English subtitles.
The Finnish profanities – and the corresponding English expressions – are underlined with a heavy line, while

7The teacher mentioned here is not the literature teacher laid off in the beginning of the film – starting off the whole chain of events –
but rather his replacement, a teacher in electronic data processing and physics.
Tarmo Hietamaa                                                   7                                                TRENAK1
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any compound-like elements attached to the expressions have a thin line under them. This method is used in
all the following examples as well. Please also note that the inflection of Finnish words may produce a
“weakened” stem consonant, as with the Nominative Singular helvetti ‘hell’ being inflected into the Genitive
Singular helvetin ‘of hell.’

               Example 1. A car dealer to a troublesome customer:
               Tilanne on nyt se että rahat, tai auto lähtee. Tää on helvetin yksinkertainen tää tilanne.
               If you don’t pay up, you lose your car. Fucking simple.

               Example 2. A police officer, on a speeding car:
               Ei helvetti.
               Hell!

               Example 3. A father, on his son’s note from school:
               Mitäs helvettii tää nyt sitte taas on?
               What the hell is this again?

       The fourth instance of helvetti had no equivalent in the subtitles, as the sentence containing it was
entirely omitted from the translation. The emphasis conveyed by the expletive in Finnish was not expressed
with any other method in the subtitles. In any case, from the examples above it can be seen how the word can
be used to emphasise a message or how it can be uttered in astonishment. The emphasis intensifies the
word(s) that follow it in a manner similar to fucking in English, as mentioned earlier as well and seen in
Example 1. The expression Mitä(s) helvettiä (~ helvettii in this spoken variant of Finnish) in Example 3 is a
very close equivalent to the English phrase What the hell. The astonished exclamation in Example 2 contains
an extra element in Finnish, the word ei, which literally is ‘no’ in English. The meaning it adds to the cry is
close to frustration (cf. “not this kind of shit again/now”). Maybe a more common alternative to ei in the same
position would be voi, ‘oh’ in English, which carries the idea of a more shocking surprise (cf. “oh shit!”).


Jumalauta [YOO-mah-LAOO-tah]


While helvetti, for example, can be used as an intensifier to other words – as evidenced by helvetin
yksinkertainen ‘fucking simple’ in Example 1 – the next curse word under inspection, jumalauta, is not used in
inflected forms to modify another phrase. On the contrary, it is the most “independent” of the Big Five, as
Tammi puts it. He also describes it as having a down-to-earth staunchness and a characteristically Finnish
powerfulness to it, as well as being a “higher-register word.”8 Jumalauta is definitely a religious profanity by its


8 The word Tammi uses here is sivistysana, which is described as a ‘foreign word’ in the monolingual dictionary Suomen kielen

perussanakirja. That is also the way it is translated into English in MOT GlobalDIX 3.0, a web-based compilation of dictionaries.
However, as these meanings are based purely on standard language, one alternative translation given in the dictionary by Rekiaro
and Robinson is more fitting to what is meant by Tammi: a so-called “polysyllabic word,” that is, a “big” word that one can use to
appear more sophisticated, or more “civilised.” Thus the solution to use the phrase “higher-register word” here.
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origin: it was initially the prayer-like Finnish exclamation Jumala, auta! meaning ‘God, help [me/us]!’ From that
form, the phrase has contracted into its current form, losing its religious meaning and nowadays functioning as
a profanity by its own right. Nevertheless, it is quite obvious that it contains the Finnish word for God, Jumala,
rather prominently (Tammi).
       Although some “empowering primitiveness” can be associated to jumalauta, as mentioned above, the
civilised side of the word seems to be the deciding factor in its utilisation, as per its usage in the film. There are
only three instances of jumalauta, and, just as with helvetti, it is used by people with respectable vocations: it
is uttered once by the alcoholic, unemployed teacher to his idle teenage son; once by the police officer,
startled by a person leaping in front of her car; and once by the other teacher upon hearing the verdict in the
trial of his wife’s supposed killer. In other words, the same “sophistication” appears to be in effect here as with
the previous curse word discussed. Following are the three instances (with indistinct dialogue inside
parentheses):

              Example 4. An alcoholic, on his teenage son lying about:
              Sähän oot jumalauta ku Oblomov, ettei muuta ku makaat.
              You’re like Oblomov. You only bloody lie there.

              Example 5. A police officer, on a person appearing out of darkness:
              Jumalauta. (Ekse) käytä heijastimia?
              Shit. No reflector.

              Example 6. A widower to his counsel, on killer’s verdict:
              Oliks tää tässä nyt? (Ekste) jumalauta parempaan pysty?
              Was that it? Is that the best you can do?

       As can be seen, the emphasis conveyed by the profanity in Example 6 is not present in the translation.
In addition, in the two other examples, the word is translated into English with quite mild expletives. And
although jumalauta is somewhat more brutal than helvetti, dubbed the mildest of the Big Five, the two seem to
have something in common, being supposedly the most “sophisticated” of the five. Then again, they are not
interchangeable, as dictated by their different degrees of severity – and the fact that they do indeed function
differently as words: helvetti is very easily found in inflected forms, intensifying other words, while jumalauta
cannot be inflected. In overall, it is interesting that these two are not used at all by the film’s roughest character,
for instance, whereas the more “civilised” characters resort, on occasion, to using the rudest curse words, the
last three of the Big Five.


Perkele [PEHR-keh-LEH]


As the opponent of God, Jumala, there are three main words in Finnish which refer to the Devil: Paholainen,
Perkele and Saatana. While the first of these – containing even the diminutive ending -nen – is not used as a
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severe profanity, the other two belong to the Big Five of Finnish curse words. However, the word in question,
perkele, had originally nothing to do with the Christian Devil. In fact, the word, as well as its cognates in the
nearest kindred languages, is believed to have been used already some two or three thousand years ago,
before the birth of Christianity. Around that time, it was adopted from the Baltic languages, the speakers of
which inhabited the territories immediately south of the Finnic tribes. In the Latvian and Lithuanian languages,
the original meanings of the loaned-out word forms were ‘thunder’ and ‘god of thunder.’ In the same way, the
Finnish perkele then referred to a Pagan god of thunder. Already back then, Finns used this powerful word as
an expletive, in a manner evoking a very formidable and frightening entity by uttering his name. In the
16th Century, this name, used already for a feared deity, was given its current status as one of the names for
the Christian Devil by the founder of the Finnish literary language, Archbishop Mikael Agricola (Meri; Tammi).
      As an expletive, perkele is described by Tammi as a “national curse word,” a “verbal assault rifle”
shooting “from the backbone” and used as “first-aid relief.” It goes well with “every emergency” requiring a
verbal outburst, but it cannot be used in just any context because of its severity (Tammi). That severity is no
doubt backed up by the strong consonants the word contains, as mentioned earlier in this paper. All in all,
perkele is an omnifarious expression, so to speak, as portrayed by Tammi’s extensive, illustrative depictions of
it, starting with its no-nonsense attitude and associating it with all things stereotypically Finnish, whether they
be going to the sauna, consuming alcohol, working hard or enjoying the Nordic nature, for example (see e.g.
Schatz’s book for several such stereotypical national idiosyncrasies of the Finns). Perkele simply belongs to
“the peerage of profanity” (Tammi).
      Perhaps it is due to this “esteemed status” of the word perkele that it is not used very extensively in the
film, as was the case with helvetti and jumalauta. It is uttered a mere 6 times by the characters, even if it can
be regarded as an epitome of sorts of a universal Finnish mentality. And regardless of whether the perceived
status of the curse word is seen to derive from its roughness or from its religious background, perkele is heard
only when speaking to someone close or basically to oneself. It is uttered three times by an enraged
pawnshop keeper to his mother, who has accepted counterfeit money; once to himself by the former bar
worker after getting a car he has stolen stuck in a snowdrift; once by an off-camera person, apparently a drunk,
commenting on life’s realities, apparently only to himself; and once, in the company of his colleagues, by the
car dealer from whom the car has been stolen. Some examples:

             Example 7. A shopkeeper, on his cashier mother’s carelessness:
             Perkeleen ämmä. Ootko sä sokee?
             You fucking stupid bitch! Are you blind?

             Example 8. An anonymous drunkard to himself:
             (Sun) on pakko joskus kuolla. Perkele.
             The only sure thing is death.
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             Example 9. A car dealer, with his colleagues, on car theft:
             Perkeleen kalliit turvajärjestelmät yhtä paskan kanssa.
             Smart ass security systems - complete waste.

      As evident in Examples 7 and 9, perkele, too, can be used to intensify the word(s) following it. (As a
premodifier, the word is inflected in these cases, hence its altered appearance.) In Example 9, it intensifies the
Finnish word for ‘expensive’ (kalliit, Nominative Plural Case), which is not present in the subtitles (although the
idea is conveyed at least in part in another way; also, another rude word here, paska ‘shit,’ is not explicitly
translated). The intensified word in Example 7 is ämmä, for which the English bitch is a rather fitting equivalent,
both in meaning and maybe even rudeness. In Example 8, perkele stands on its own, basically separately
from the preceding sentence. It acts as a sort of a “full stop,” as if saying: “And that’s how it is – end of
discussion,” which actually might be a fitting description for how the word is used. This would also help to
explain the idea behind the “management by perkele” concept of leadership mentioned earlier.


Saatana [SAA-tah-NAH]


It is easy to see that saatana is the same word as the English Satan. It has ended up in the Finnish vocabulary
from the Germanic languages via Swedish, like helvetti has. However, Saatana, another name for the Devil,
was intentionally introduced into the language by Archbishop Agricola in the 16th Century, as he was forming
the basis for the Finnish written language while translating the New Testament for the first time into Finnish
(Tammi; Meri). The history of civilised Finnish society is closely connected to the Church, and what more
concrete an evidence could there be of that than the translation of the Bible and the creation of the standards
for a language concurrently? This also supports the observations made by Tammi and Schatz on why the
Finnish curse word vocabulary is greatly influenced by religious terminology. (For more information on how
Finland’s history is intertwined with the Church’s history, see e.g. Markku Heikkilä’s Major Trends and
Movements in Finnish Church History.)
      Tammi attaches similar kinds of attributes to saatana as to perkele, but states that some see the former
as being a ruder curse word than the latter, a purely Pagan profanity. Even though perkele might be stronger-
sounding with its hard consonants p, r and k, saatana stems from a more intercultural lexicon, having cognates
in many languages and its roots in Hebrew as ‘the Archfiend,’ which might explain the word’s notable impact
on people even nowadays (Tammi; Meri). It is also interesting that in English, for instance, the cognate of
saatana is not used as a curse word. With this possible equivalence problem in mind, it can be said that this
Finnish word is used in a rather similar fashion with helvetti, but in a coarser sense (Finnish).
      In the film, saatana is uttered more times than the first three of the Big Five combined, 15 times
altogether. It is used four times by the alcoholic teacher, mostly while trying to get a grip on his son; once by
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the pawnshop keeper berating his cashier mother; seven times by the macho ex-bar worker in situations
ranging from getting a parking ticket or getting his car stuck in a snowdrift to becoming angry or showing off to
someone; once by an anonymous lady friend, laughing but serious, brushing off unwanted company; and twice
by the widower teacher mad at his son. The macho man’s expressions will be covered in connection with the
final Big Five profanity, since he uses, together with the other rudest words, the final one quite excessively.
Examples of the usage of saatana include:

               Example 10. An alcoholic, on the weather:
               Saatana. Kylmää.
               Hell. Cold.

               Example 11. An alcoholic to his teenage son:
               Saatana säkö täällä rupeet niinku mua opettaan? [… ] Säkö täällä niinku kasvatat mua saatanan nulikka?
               Are you trying to teach ME? Are you raising ME, you punk?

               Example 12. A drunken lady, on a man’s approaches:
               (Älä viitti.) Lopeta ny saatana.
               No, don’t! Stop it.

               Example 13. A father, on his son’s bad behaviour:
               Vittu että saa poikaansa hävetä, saatana!
               You disgust me. God damn it.

       The harshness of saatana is rather evident here: it is uttered mainly by people who are intoxicated or
have completely lost their temper, or in other words, are without self-control, in addition to the macho man who
at least tries to behave in an emphatically tough way otherwise as well. In Example 10, the word is used as a
separate unit, not unlike perkele in Example 8, although in these cases the curse words are in different
positions, the earlier following and this one preceding the phrase being emphasised. A similar kind of
emphasis takes place in the first occurrence of saatana in Example 11, as well as in Examples 12 and 13.
Moreover, from a syntactical point-of-view, it could be argued that the word is used to call the other person a
saatana, a devil, in those cases in Examples 11 and 12. 9 This, however, would not be a commonplace
interpretation of such usage by an average speaker of Finnish, and the word is seen merely as an intensifier.
In the latter occurrence in Example 11, the curse word is used as an intensifying premodifier to a headword in
the same way with helvetti and perkele: helvetin yksinkertainen ‘fucking simple’ – perkeleen ämmä ‘(you)
fucking bitch’ – saatanan nulikka ‘(you) fucking punk’ (all the premodifying profanities here in Finnish are in
Genitive Plural – the -n ending – and translated into English using the same word). The last one of the Big Five,
vittu, is also present in Example 13, used to emphasise the point in a similar fashion to the other cases in this


9 Just to demonstrate this usage of saatana further, Examples 11 and 12 could be translated as follows, respectively: “God damn you,
are you trying to teach me?” and “No, don’t! Stop it, God damn you.” These examples may sound somewhat strange in English, but
the point here is a profanity which basically addresses the listener as well. (To use “you devil,” for example, as a translation for
saatana, would, in turn, bring in a playful nuance to the expressions – which is in no way what is conveyed with them in Finnish.)
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paragraph. This word will be discussed next.


Vittu [VIT-too]


The last of the Big Five of Finnish curse words is vittu, the exception in the religion-influenced main curse
vocabulary. Says Schatz:

              Hell, the Almighty God, his colleague the Devil and the fucking saints may be very helpful when it comes
              to insulting someone or to adding verve to what you’re saying, but there’s one swear-word above all others,
              one word that says it all, one word that is much stronger than religious blasphemy could ever be. I’m
              talking about the female reproductive organ, the vagina, the cunt, the quim, the fanny, the pussy, the slit,
              the beaver: the omnipresent vittu. (Schatz 55)

As for it being a strong expression, both Meri and Tammi describe the word as “really obscene.” It may have
been used in Finnish for nearly a thousand years. It has come to the language as a borrowing, again via
Swedish from the Germanic languages, in which it already was a vulgar and indecent word for ‘female
genitalia.’ Its origins have been traced back to a word in the Proto-Indo-European language, the meaning of
which was ‘to rot, to fester, to stink,’ which would explain why it has such unpleasant connotations. It has been
conjectured that the word originally developed from a cry of shock, perhaps a similar one to the current ew in
English (or hyi in Finnish). Vittu has a cognate in English as well: the Scottish English fud, a slang word that
carries the very same “anatomical” meaning with its Finnish and historical counterparts (Meri; Tammi; fud in
Duckworth).
      Although an extremely rude word, vittu is in rather frequent use in colloquial Finnish, especially among
young people. It is used in a manner very similar to the English fuck, while the literal meaning of the word
might be said to approximate ‘cunt’ in its severity (Tammi; Schatz; Finnish). Despite its relatively wide use, this
curse word has retained its rudeness, which is understandable when one considers to what it actually refers,
still a taboo subject nowadays. Nonetheless, as Tammi suggests, because language changes inevitably, “it is
probable that soon vittu will be as ordinary and harmless a word as gosh is currently,” since the “erosion” and
“devaluation” caused by its frequent use cannot be hindered. On the one hand, at present, this word – above
all – cannot be used whenever or wherever because of its rudeness. On the other hand, it is greatly favoured
by the youth and, interestingly enough, even by teenage girls and young women, “who take pride in using it at
least as much as the men do” (Tammi; [also] in Schatz 55). In fact, the “V word” sometimes acts in a
syntactical fashion, like a conjunction, that is, together with or maybe even in place of a clause connector like
and or but, for instance (Tammi).
      There were 47 instances of vittu being uttered in the film. This would support the notion of its
widespread use, particularly when the number is laid against the numbers of helvetti (4), jumalauta (3),
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perkele (6) and saatana (15). Furthermore, it is the only curse word used by the young people in the film, but
then again, all those utterances – seven in total – are heard exclusively from one of the three main young
characters; the other two do not swear at all. This might reflect their different backgrounds: the swearing youth
is the son of the alcoholic-turned former teacher, while the other two – a couple, his friends – seem to have
had it better. If the frequent use of vittu is taken as a sign of adolescence, as per the discussion in the previous
paragraph, or even problematical immaturity, then the former bar worker macho is the most childish character
in the film, a supposition backed up by his actions as well. He utters the word a total of 34 times. A further two
times it is uttered by the spiritless and insecure salesman, who does not swear otherwise at all. When he then
does, he is drunk after a long sober period and tries to imitate the panache of the macho man. The word is
also used once by an anonymous policeman while interrogating a suspect, and three times by the widowed
teacher mad at his son. Following are some examples (with the author’s explanatory translations, marked with
asterisk [*], for the lines not translated at all in the DVD’s subtitles):

              Example 14. A teenager, slapped by his father:
              Kiitti faija ihan vitusti.
              * Thanks a fucking million, Dad.

              Example 15. A macho, drunk, to an intervening waiter:
              Mee siitä, vittu! Vitun kyyppari älä tuu tähän (enää nyt) sotkemaan.
              Fuck off! Don’t mess with me, asshole!

              Example 16. A macho, by himself, on his stuck car:
              (Saatana.) Perkele! (Saatana.) Vittu! [KICKS THE CAR:] Paska. [TRIES TO PULL THE CAR:] Vittu!
              * God damn it. [… ] Fuck! [KICKS THE CAR:] Shit… [TRIES TO PULL THE CAR:] Fuck!

              Example 17. A macho, drunk, on his car’s additional feature:
              Vittu se on telkkari, se on vittu telkkari, näkyy kaikki taivaskanavat. 14 kanavaa, vittu sä voit kattoo Music
              Televisionia.
              It’s a fucking TV! Sky channels and all. 14 channels and MTV!

              Example 18. A salesman, drunk, on his vacuum cleaner’s features:
              Vittu ku painaa, tästä ku painaa nii kaikki vittu aukee.
              One click and everything opens.

       It is interesting that the line in Example 14 has not been translated in any way. In it, the word vittu is
used in a form that describes in what way something is done (as if saying “I thank you so fucking much”), and
the meaning of the line is clearly cynical. In Example 15, the translation reads “Fuck off!” for which a more
common Finnish expression, instead of the first sentence of the line, would be “Painu vittuun!” (2nd Person
Singular Form). Like earlier in Example 8, the Finnish curse word acts here, too, as a separate emphasis for
the preceding phrase, in this case Mee siitä ‘get out (of here).’ The second instance in Example 15 has an
inflected vittu intensifying a headword, kyyppari, a slang term for ‘waiter.’ Example 16 is a “cocktail” of harsh
profanities cried out in frustration. In spite of it being left totally untranslated, it displays how a series of curse
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words can be uttered in succession to vent out a bad temper effectively – although such variety might cause a
translator some problems. The last two examples illustrate well how vittu can be scattered all over one’s
speech and used also as a kind of a “syntactical” element. All the instances in these examples are used for
emphasis, but in addition, the third one in Example 17 begins a clause, replacing a proper conjunction, which
could be the Finnish equivalent for and. Also, the second instances in both of these two examples are placed
right in the middle of their respective clauses with no real relation to the words around them, as opposed to the
relation that exists in the subtitles where the premodifier fucking emphasises the headword TV. It could be
argued that the popular “V word” is used by the characters just for its popularity.


Other Profanities in the Film


The remaining rude words outside the Big Five’s 75 instances include milder curse words and words of abuse.
Altogether, there are 23 instances of these: 7 curse words and 16 words of abuse. No fewer than 18 instances
of these milder profanities are uttered by the ex-bar worker, which further indicates that the macho has a way
with curse words, contributing to the assumption that such “effective communication” is to be expected of a
stereotypically tough Finn (cf. Schatz 53). The remaining five instances are uttered by the alcoholic ex-teacher,
the pawnshop keeper and the car dealer. It is interesting that such linguistic variation – in this case, an array of
different harsh and mild curse words – is present in the idiolect of the mentioned older characters, while the
youngest characters resort only to vittu. Following are some examples of the milder curse words:

             Example 19. A subordinate to a preoccupied car dealer who then replies:
             Sua odotetaan. – No voi herran perse.
             Someone to see you! - Fucking hell!

             Example 20. A macho, drunk, talking big to a bartender:
             Mullon siä semmonen, hemmetin hieno iso autokauppa.
             I have a major car dealership there.

             Example 21. A macho, driving drunk, talking big to a new-found “friend:”
             Masturboi, masturboidaan hei!
             Hey! Let’s wank!

             Example 22. A macho, having sex, interrupted by the friend:
             Mee vittuun sieltä. Mee omaan huoneeseen vittu nussiin sitä imuria.
             Get the fuck out of here. Go screw your vacuum cleaner.

      In Example 19, the car dealer’s response is a frustrated cry. Perse, the actual profanity there, means
‘arse’ by itself in English, while the premodifier to it is the Genitive Case of herra which, in normal usage,
means ‘mister,’ but here refers to the Lord, that is, God. In other words, he is saying “Oh Lord’s arse,” which
can be somewhat comical in Finnish as well, but it nonetheless combines a highest religious element with a
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basically sexual word. As for comical aspects, Example 21 is all about them. While its English cognate
to masturbate is perhaps used relatively frequently, the Finnish verb masturboida is mostly a medical term and
not used in normal colloquial language. Uttered out of place to begin with by a drunken man, speeding around
in a parking lot, to another man aboard he had just met, this high-register word really sticks out as humorous.
(Here, the two instances in Finnish are in Imperative Mood: the first in 2nd Person Singular Form and the
second in 1st Person Plural Form.) Example 20’s hemmetti is a premodifier to a headword, hieno. Hemmetti is
used in a manner similar to the similar-looking helvetti, although the latter is much more severe. The meaning
of the untranslated phrase here, hemmetin hieno, is along the lines of ‘heck of a beauty.’ In Example 22, the
verb nussia is present (in a colloquial 3rd Infinitive Form) and is a very close equivalent to the word in the
subtitles, screw. There are a couple of vittus in this example as well. See also Example 9 for the use paska
‘shit:’ there, yhtä paskan kanssa, translated as ‘complete waste,’ declares the subject “one with shit,” or
“equalling shit.”
        The next examples are on the words of abuse:

                Example 23. A shopkeeper, on his cashier mother’s carelessness:
                Perkele! Sä täällä dokaat ja luet lehtiä, tekisit töitä saatanan huuhkaja.
                All you do round here is read the tabloids and booze.

                Example 24. A macho to a shopkeeper who deceived him:
                Ovi auki! Vitun pelle! Haluutsä, haluutsä et mä tapan sut?
                Open the door! Bastard! You wanna die?

                Example 25. A macho to a person he almost drove over:
                Voi vittu! Se on sulle punanen vitun urpo. Vittu torppaanko turpaan? Vitun homo. Homo!
                Fuck! The light’s red, you jerk! You looking for a knuckle sandwich? Homo! Faggot!

Example 23’s abuse is left untranslated, but it has saatana as its premodifier, and with huuhkaja it literally
compares an old lady with an eagle owl, that is, a large and peculiar-looking bird-of-prey. The meaning here is
close to the English phrase “old buzzard.” In Example 24, vitun pelle could be translated as “fucking clown,”
since literally, pelle means ‘clown’ and even the meaning of the phrase would remain intact.10 Example 25
contains two different words of abuse, urpo and homo. The subtitles’ jerk is a very close equivalent for urpo,
which, incidentally, with a capital letter, is also a proper Finnish male name. The Finnish homo is translated in
two different ways, as homo and faggot. Whatever the reasons for that are, the translation faggot gets the
meaning through, while homo as a word of abuse might be less used in English. For words of abuse, see also
Examples 7 and 11’s ämmä and nulikka, respectively. In addition to vittu, the words urpo and homo were also
greatly used by the macho loner, as can be seen in the last example above, for instance.


10 This is in no way to imply that the translation is incorrect, and the same goes for all the author’s alternative translation suggestions
in this paper. In fact, for a foreign audience, the use of bastard here could carry the idea of being totally enraged better, in addition to
the audiovisual information of the scene.
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                     Number of            Approx. literal        Approx. functional
    Profanity                                                                                          Notes
                     instances              meaning                 equivalent
 vittu                    47          ‘cunt’                     “fuck”                   Big Five curse, sexual
 saatana                  15          ‘Satan’                                             Big Five curse, religious
 urpo                     7           a male name                “jerk”                   abuse, personal
 perkele                  6           ‘Devil’                                             Big Five curse, religious
 homo                     5           ‘gay’                      “faggot”                 abuse, sexual
 helvetti                 4           ‘hell’                                              Big Five curse, religious
 jumalauta                3                                      “God damn”               Big Five curse, religious
 masturboida              2           ‘to masturbate’                                     (comical) curse, sexual
 paska                    2           ‘shit’                     “shit”                   curse, scatological
 hemmetti                 1                                      “damn”                   curse, religious
 huuhkaja                 1           ‘eagle owl’                “old buzzard”            abuse, personal
 nulikka                  1           ‘misbehaving boy’          “punk”                   abuse, personal
 nussia                   1           ‘to screw’                 “to screw”               curse, sexual
 pelle                    1           ‘clown’                    “clown”                  abuse, personal
 perse                    1           ‘arse’                                              curse, sexual
 ämmä                     1           ‘older woman’              “bitch”                  abuse, personal
            Total:        98

Finnish profanities. This table exhibits all the profanities present in the film Frozen Land. The words are in descending
order by the number of instances, with the most frequently used at the top. If two or more words have the same number
of instances, they are listed in alphabetically descending order between themselves. (Please note that the alphabetical
order here follows the Finnish order where the letter Ä is different from the letter A and located at the tail-end of the
alphabet.) Where possible, approximate literal meanings and/or approximate functional equivalents for the profanities
are also given in English, although the words lack a defining context here. The notes in the final column indicate
                                                             Big
whether a word is a curse word or a word of abuse; the “ Five”words, the severest curse words, are indicated
separately. Also mentioned in the notes is the nature of the words, for example, religious; the category “    personal”refers
                                           s
to words that stem from the abused one’ attributes, as in an old woman being called huuhkaja or an unwise person
pelle. All in all, there were 16 different profanities: 5 sexual, 5 religious, 5 personal and 1 scatological. The number of
instances for sexual curse words was 56, for religious 29, for personal 11 and for scatological 2.




Are Finns Heavy Swearers?


The profanities in Frozen Land reflect a society of many religious and sexual taboos. Four of the “Big Five”
Finnish curse words stem from religious backgrounds, with the remaining and most brutal one, vittu, referring
to the female reproductive organ. Sexual curse words were used almost twice as often as religious ones,
which in turn were almost triple the number of personal abuses. Even though sexual curses are relatively
scarce in Finnish curse word vocabulary, vittu is so frequently used that it tips the balance effectively: without it,
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this category would only be third in the number of instances from the film tabulated in this paper. The
“religiousness” of Finnish curses may be due to the close presence of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
Finnish history, in spite of the fact that some of these words have Pagan origins. The high number of sexually-
oriented curses indicates that the “V word” is a fashionable profanity, for whatever reason.
        All in all, the cursing in the film seems to give a fairly accurate picture of Finns as swearers: some swear
only when absolutely in need of a verbal outburst, while some swear excessively whenever and wherever. The
fact that aggressive-sounding cursers are always more noticeable than more moderate ones may have earned
the Finns a reputation as heavy swearers. In any case, life’s hardships often result in heated emotions. As
discussed in this paper, due to a history of enduring harsh living conditions on the periphery of civilisation,
those hardships in the frozen land of Finland may be harder than the average. Thus, it might be claimed that
Finns by nature have been acclimated to be heavy swearers.




Works Cited
Duckworth, Ted. A Dictionary of Slang. English slang and colloquialisms used in the United Kingdom.
     <http://www.peevish.co.uk/slang/index.htm>. Update of 8 November 2007. Viewed on 4 December 2007.
Finnish profanity. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finnish_profanity>. Wikipedia. Viewed on 18 December 2007.
Frozen Land - A film about spiraling evil and how hard it is to forgive.
       <http://www.solarfilms.com/elokuvat/kaikki/pahamaa/en_GB/frozenland/>. Solar Films, Inc. Viewed on 24 October 2007.
Heikkilä, Markku. Major Trends and Movements in Finnish Church History.
       <http://evl.fi/EVLen.nsf/Documents/387C25968DB39D27C225730F001F364C?OpenDocument&lang=EN>. The Evangelical
       Lutheran Church of Finland. Viewed on 1 December 2007.
Kirosana [Profanity]. <http://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirosana>. Wikipedia. Viewed on 12 November 2007.
Management by perkele. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Management_by_perkele>. Wikipedia. Viewed on 5 November 2007.
Meri, Veijo. Sanojen synty [Descent of Words]. 6th edition. Helsinki: Gummerus, 2004.
MOT GlobalDix 3.0. Kielikone Ltd. The Internet database of the Tampere University Library. [Accessible to registered University
      users.]
Paha maa (international English title: Frozen Land). Writers: Aku Louhimies, Jari Rantala, Paavo Westerberg. Director: Aku
      Louhimies. Performing: Jasper Pääkkönen, Mikko Leppilampi, Pamela Tola. Solar Films, Inc. 2005. DVD release 2005.
Profanity. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Profanity>. Wikipedia. Viewed on 25 October 2007.
Rekiaro, Ilkka, and Douglas Robinson. Suomi/englanti/suomi sanakirja [Finnish-English-Finnish Dictionary]. 2nd, expanded and
       revised edition; its fifth printing. Jyväskylä: Gummerus, 1997.
Schatz, Roman. From Finland, with Love (Suomesta, rakkaudella in Finnish, translated by Maarika Autio; both language versions
       are printed back-to-back in the same volume). 10th edition. Helsinki: Johnny Kniga Kustannus, 2006.
Spoken Finnish. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoken_Finnish>. Wikipedia. Viewed on 12 November 2007.
Suomen kielen perussanakirja (Basic Dictionary of the Finnish Language). 2nd edition. Kotimaisten kielten tutkimuskeskus
     (Research Institute for the Languages of Finland). Helsinki: Edita, 2004.
Taboo. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taboo>. Wikipedia. Viewed on 25 October 2007.
Tammi, Jari. Suuri kirosanakirja [The Great Curse Word Dictionary]. 3rd edition. Helsinki: WSOY, 2007.
[Translations in the brackets are by the author.]
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Appendix: Finnish Profanity


The following is an annotated listing of Finnish curse words from Wikipedia. The hyperlinks that were in the list
have been removed by the author, since they may expire. The layout has also been adjusted slightly to
conform better to this paper’s dimensions; otherwise, the text has not been edited in any way for spelling
errors, for instance. The document in its entirety may be viewed on the Wikipedia page Finnish profanity. See
Note 5 on the use of Wikipedia sources in this paper.


                The following explains the meanings of certain well-known curse words.

            Helvetti translates as hell and has roughly the same meaning as in the English language. From
            Swedish Helvete, with the same meaning. Often used example-phrase is "What the hell?" in
Helvetti
            Finnish "Mitä helvettiä?" Some words used to replace it, depending on dialect, include helkutti,
            helvata, hemmetti, hemskutti, himputti and himskatti.

             Hitto, probably from pagan origin, is a considerably mild swear word, but still considered an
             expletive. Also used in a diminutive form "hittolainen". It is a reference to a sacred grove or burial
             site, or a mythical being hiisi associated with them (and possibly Hittavainen). It can nowadays
Hitto, Hiisi
             be translated as "a devil" or some other little hellish being. The word is in same category with
             other "mild" swear words like "helkkari" or "himskatti". All of them meaning either Hell itself or
             somekind of hellish being. Hitto is usually translated Damn (it).

          This is a combination of two words jumala meaning god and auta meaning help (verb, imperative
          2nd person). It is used in a similar fashion to Oh God except in Finnish it tends to have a slightly
          aggressive emphasis, usually used as a way of expressing one's frustration. Another translation
          for Oh God is Voi luoja (luoja = the creator, a synonym for god). An ad campaign for Evangelian
Jumalauta Church aid for third world countries used JumalAuta as an eyecatcher. This raised discussion for
          being too profane. Perhaps the most accurate English counterpart for "jumalauta" is "goddamn
          it", although in English one asks God to damn the person or reason for the problem, whereas in
          Finnish one simply asks God for some kind of help. Often used replacement words for it are
          jumankauta or jumaliste.

            Kusi, pronounced /kusi/ or like "coosy" in English, means "urine" with a similar connotation as
            "piss". Used by itself, the word almost always refers to actual urine and is considered only mildly
            offensive in colloquial language. Compound words, such as "kusipää" (piss head, common
Kusi        translation of "asshole") are very offensive insults. Children often use "pissa" as a tame
            replacement word. The word pissa has drifted so far into everyday usage that in combined form
            "pissapoika" (pissing boy) it refers specifically to the squirter on the windshield of cars. Several
            foreign visitors have been amused by the product "Superpiss" for windshield wiper fluid.

            Literally "cock" (penis, not a rooster); often considered highly offensive. The word nearly always
            refers to an actual penis and may be used, for example, to express frustration: voi kyrpä! "oh
Kyrpä
            fuck!". Variations include mulkku, molo and muna, the latter meaning also "egg". In contrast to
            the other words, mulkku may refer to an unpleasant man, both as a noun and as an adjective.

            Paska translates as shit or crap and has has approximately the same context in English and
            Finnish. It has the same connonations of "shoddy" or "broken," which may even surpass the
                                                            1
            word's use in the original sense in frequency. Inoffensive synonyms are kakka ("poo"),
Paska       especially with children, and the clinical uloste ("excrement"). Uloste appears to have been
            introduced as a high-class replacement in the 1800s, while paska is believed to have been in
                                                                         2
            continuous use since at least the Proto-Finnic of 3000 BC. Doubt and disbelief are expressed
            with hevonpaska ("horse's shit", compare "bullshit") and paskan marjat ("shit's berries.") It can
            be combined with vittu as in "Vittu tätä paskaa" ("fuck this shit.") A Finnish rock musician goes
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           by the name, and Paskahousu is a card game, a relative of Shithead, that's popular with children
           and teenagers.

           Perkele was originally imported from the Baltic as an alternate name for the thunder god of
           Finnish paganism, Ukko, and co-opted by the Christian church as a synonym for "devil." The "r"
           can be rolled and lengthened, which can be transcribed by repeating it. The word is very
           common in the country and likely the best known expletive abroad, and enjoys a kind of
           emblematic status; for instance, the Finnish black metal band Impaled Nazarene named its 1994
           patriotic album Suomi Finland Perkele (using the word as a reference to Finnishness, not to the
           devil) and the more conventional M. A. Numminen released a 1971 album known as Perkele!
Perkele    Lauluja Suomesta ("Perkele! Songs from Finland.") When used for expressing one's miscontent
           or frustration, perkele often suggests that the sayer is determined to solve the problem, even if it
           will be difficult. It is associated with sisu, which in turn is an iconic Finnish trait.3 Professor
           Kulonen has described perkele as being ingrained in the older generations, as opposed to kyrpä
           and vittu for the younger ones.4 A common and milder replacement word is perhana, and less
           popular variations include perkules, perskuta, perskuta rallaa and perkeleissön. The word has
           lent itself to a Swedish expression for Finnish business management practices, Management by
           perkele.

           Perse ("ass") can be used either as a profane term for the buttocks or as a semi-strong swear
           word. The similarities with the Latin phrase "per se", the Hungarian "persze" (which means "of
Perse      course", comes from the aforementioned Latin and is pronounced mostly the same way), the
           hero Perseus and the ancient city of Persepolis are purely coincidental, although the wide use of
           "persze" in spoken Hungarian could sound somewhat embarrassing to Finnish visitors.

           Literally "pussy" (meaning vagina, not a cat). Pronounce it like 'pill-oo' (am.). Not especially
Pillu
           swearing, but not something to say to your mother-in-law either.

           Piru, meaning devil is not always considered a swearword but sometimes used in a similar
Piru       fashion to the word damn: "Damn it all" - "Piru vieköön" - "shall (the) Devil take (it)" A more
           proper word for devil is paholainen.

           Reva is another reference to the female genitalia, akin to vittu. Its English representative would
           be "quim" or "cunt". It is primarily used as a strong sexual expression, not as an actual
           swearword. The former chairman of Finnish Parliament, Mrs. Riitta Uosukainen used the word in
           her controversial autobiography Liehuva liekinvarsi, where she described herself in the sexual
Reva
           encounters between her and Mr. Topi Uosukainen as rintaa, reittä ja revää (misspelled "reva")
           ("[I was utterly]...breasts, thighs and quim.") Reva is also used occasionally in reference to
           buttocks, especially female buttocks and can therefore also been translated as "ass". A free
           translation for Täyden kympin reva is "Top class ass".

           Runkkari or runkku is an extremely offensive word and rarely used, but when used it usually has
Runkkari
           other swear words said with it such as "Saatanan runkkari!". In English it means wanker.

           Saatana means quite literally Satan, but used in a similar fashion to helvetti. Often used
Saatana    replacement words for it are saamari and samperi. Along with "perkele" and "vittu", this is one of
           the most classic and most used swearing words in Finnish.

           Vittu is a quite ancient word for the female genitalia but now has the literal meaning of "cunt."
           Linguistically it is used similar to how 'fuck' is used in English to add force to a statement or
           express frustration. The often used "fuck you" is commonly translated as "haista vittu" which
           means "smell (a) cunt". Often considered extremely profane, its usage is nowadays not only
           limited to teenager slang, but is often used as an emphasis in a forceful or frustrated utterance
Vittu      or expression, as in "mitä vittua" meaning "what the fuck". Other common phrases using vittu
           include voi vittu (translating roughly as "Fuck this" or "Oh fuck") and "ja vitut!" ("The fuck you
           say!" / "Bullshit!"), and one occasionally hears more colorful constructions, such as "Vittujen
           kevät ja kyrpien takatalvi!" (paraphrased, "Oh fucking shit!" or literally "The spring of cunts and
           the late winter of dicks!").Notably, the term "vittu" is also widely used as an pre-adjective, to
           express even more positive things; "vitun hyvä", "vitun upeeta!" "vitun iso" (fucking nice, fucking
           good, fucking large) or less positive "vitun kusipää" (fuckin asshole). The usage of this extremely
Tarmo Hietamaa                                        20                                            TRENAK1
79972                                                                      Finnish Institutions Research Paper

            versatile word vittu and all its forms is only limited by ones imagination. The term vittu is also
            known to be the basis of a crude illustration of a vagina, the so-called "kirkkovene" (church-
            boat), "hämähäkki väärinpäin" (spider on its back) or "vitunkuva" (vittu-image). As such it may
            come as a surprise that the word is actually quite ancient and it along with the aforementioned
            vittu-drawing was in fact used in a positive and respectful manner when referring to the female
            body. It is often replaced in everyday speech with the less offensive hitto (see above), which
            sounds a little like the other word. Sometimes it's replaced with even less offensive vitsi, which
            means a joke (as in "oh joke", which doesn't make much sense but is hardly offensive), or hitsi,
            which happens to be what is created by welding, the weld.


References [for the Wikipedia list]

1. Korhonen, Taro; Miika Nousiainen (2007). Paskakirja (in Finnish). Finland: Like Kustannus Oy, 23. ISBN
   9789524719414.
2. Korhonen, Taro; Miika Nousiainen (2007). Paskakirja (in Finnish). Finland: Like Kustannus Oy, pp. 24-25.
   ISBN 9789524719414.
3. Thomas, Bill. "The Finnish Line", The Washington Post, 2006-03-26. Retrieved on 2007-06-09. (English)
4. Juhani, Sirén. "Perkele!", City magazine, 2003. Retrieved on 2007-06-09. (Finnish)
•   Slangi.net sanastot – Net based Finnish - Helsinki slang dictionary (in Finnish)

				
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