I just ran across the Finnish word lounas, which means both ‘lunch’ and ‘southwest’ (this was in the context of the former dacha community Lounatjoki northwest of St. Petersburg, since 1948 called Zakhodskoe; there is some dispute over whether the name originally meant ‘southwest river’ or ‘lunch river,’ the argument for the latter being that workers ate meals there while they were building the railroad that was the community’s raison d’être). On a whim (the kind of whim that comes naturally to me) I looked up “southwest” in my Estonian dictionary to see what the sound correspondences looked like, and was mildly disappointed to see it was an entirely different word, edel. But wait: just above it, under the rubric “south,” was lõuna! I looked up “south” in the Finnish dictionary, and sure enough, it was etelä. It seemed odd that the two words would have exchanged senses; a little googling got me this passage from p. 216 of Basic Aspects of Language in Human Relations: Toward a General Theoretical Framework, by Harald Haarmann (Mouton de Gruyter, 1991):
The kind of “oscillation” in the meaning of basic terms which has been illustrated for the Lappish terminology finds its equivalent when comparing other Finno-Ugric languages. As an example, I refer here to contrasts in the corresponding Finnish and Estonian terminology: [Here he gives a table with the above words.] These and other variations are, as in the case of Lappish terms, a reflection of orientation according to weather conditions and the profile of the surrounding landscape, rather than an orientation in terms of the position of stars in the sky.
I thought that was interesting, so I’m passing it along. (The book sounds interesting; anybody know anything about Haarmann?)