The Dirtiest Finnish Expressions.

Back in 2013 I posted about the Finnish phrase perkeleen vittupää; now I can provide you with a wider sample of pungent Finnish expressions courtesy of Veera Papinoja. A couple of examples:

1. The Finns don’t say that someone is “pedantic”… they say they “fuck a comma” (nussia pilkkua).
8. The Finns don’t say something “disappeared without trace”… they say it “vanished like a fart in Sahara” (kadota kuin pieru Saharaan).

Thanks, bulbul!


  1. David Marjanović says

    Passt wie die Faust aufs Auge exists in German, too… but I only know it from reading and am not sure what exactly it means.

  2. Erkki Pekkinen says

    Passt wie die Faust aufs Auge

    WE have this in Finnish, too: “Käy niin kuin nyrkki silmään” = literally “Fits like a fist in the eye”

    An equivalent in English could be : “Fits (someone) like a glove”

  3. Owlmirror says

    I’ve been reading a work of Finnish dark fantasy in translation, Where the Trains Turn, by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen (translation by Liisa Rantalaiho), and I was struck by the . . . visceralness of some of the phrases. I don’t know if the author is using these idiosyncratically, or as something that Finns everywhere would recognize:

    I would have let both my breasts be ground to mink food if only […]

    A threat the narrator makes to her young son when she catches him after he sneaks out alone late at night:

    We won’t talk any more about this, but if you do something like this once more, I won’t even ask you anything, I’ll make a stew of you while you sleep and sell you to that drunkard Traphollow for mink food. And with the money I get I’ll bribe [the local constable] to close his eyes about your disappearance. And if anybody asks about you, I won’t admit you ever existed. Do we understand each other?

    Mink food?

  4. SFReader says

    Mink raised on farms primarily eat expired cheese, eggs, fish, meat and poultry slaughterhouse byproducts, dog food, and turkey livers, as well as prepared commercial foods

    OK, I got it.

    Mink food smells bad, no need to continue.

  5. Who is this Esteri? Is she this famous designer?

    If there’s one country in the world that would put the name of a famous designer of coffee cups into a phrase like this, my guess is that it would be Finland. But it still doesn’t seem all that likely, I guess.

  6. SFReader says

    The Finns don’t say someone is “full of themselves”… they say they “have piss going to their head” (kusi noussut päähän).

    And I thought the expression was Russian!

  7. In English, [someone is] “full of piss” is a variant of “full of shit”.

  8. Who is this Esteri?

    kuin Esterin perseestä

  9. The phrase “Water comes as Ester sucks” is an eternal subject of wonder.

    The often-told story comes from fire engines using an Ester-branded pump. This story is also true. For example, the truck in the Nummi volunteer fire department has Ester 240D head pump.

    The second story tells of an old paddle steamship named Ester. The ship’s paddle wheels caused a big splash after the ship.

    The third theory comes from the Helsinki library, according to which the saying refers to Ester’s name day on May 16, which has been considered a particularly rainy day.
    Whatever the truth, we must appreciate the richness of our language.

  10. Stu Clayton says

    Passt wie die Faust aufs Auge … An equivalent in English could be : “Fits (someone) like a glove”

    Nono. The German expression can mean that, or the exact opposite.

    Consider this: a fist fits an eye (socket) in all desirable respects: one can inflict pain effectively but without blinding.

    Deutschlandfunkkultur 2018

    German Wiktionary with the examples:
    [1] Die lachsfarbene Bluse und der grellrote Schal passen ja wie die Faust aufs Auge.
    [2] Er Pilot, sie Stewardess – das passt natürlich wie die Faust aufs Auge.

  11. John Cowan says

    Full of piss is by no means full of shit, at least in my usage: they mean ‘filled with youthful enthusiasm’ and ‘not credible’ respectively.

  12. Most of these are indeed common, but I have never heard #7 before in my life and #9 sounds only vaguely familiar. (The expressions Owlmirror mentions also sound wholly idiosyncratic. At least the “grind X into mink food” part could be common in regions with substantial mink farming though, I suspect.)

    A few additions I would have included however:
    • the jocular alliterative greeting Hei sun heiluvilles ‘Hello to your swinging parts’;
    • the proverb on resilience Kaikkeen tottuu paitsi pitämään jääpuikkoa perseessään ‘everything can be gotten used to, except keeping an icicle up your ass’;
    • the expression of despair Kaikki on paskaa paitsi kusi ‘all is shit except piss’;
    • the expression of openness Kaikkea pitää kokeilla kaikki mummoaan ja kansantanssia ‘everything ought to be tried except [sex with] your grandma and traditional folk dancing’.
    (Don’t think too hard about the last one naming only your grandma; it’s an Arson Murder Jaywalking joke and accordingly comes with a bunch of variants in which relative/s to include, though this one’s the most common.)

  13. Excellent additions!

  14. AJP Crown says

    I’ll put this up again. It got eaten last time. I gathered some of the work of Esteri Tomula, china collections for the Finnish firm Arabia. Huge pre-postmodern stylistic variation over 40 odd years on the theme of floral images & patterns plus fruit & veg. I’m not sure how industrial ceramicists print the black lines on a curved surface so don’t ask me.

  15. And kevät is ‘spring’, not ‘summer’.

  16. Owlmirror says

    This quote from an old comment elsewhere isn’t really dirty (or at least, having no Finnish, the translation doesn’t look dirty), but it does have a similar off-colour dark humour:

    “Hi there you old bastard, why aren’t you dead yet?”
    hey, I rather like that.

    Hah, that’s a classic Southwestern Finnish greeting as well. There they say:

    Viäläks sääki elät? (‘Wow, are you still living?’)

    But this? “So what’s good in your life this week; what’s motivating you?”
    Never, ever greet a Finn like that. He’ll assume you are fucking with him. 😉

  17. Not dirty either, but a classic reply to “How are you doing?” / “How’s it going?” is Kuin jäitä polttelisi ‘Like trying to burn ice’.

  18. In my experience, “full of piss,” in English is usually, “full of piss and vinegar.”

  19. the expression of openness Kaikkea pitää kokeilla kaikki mummoaan ja kansantanssia ‘everything ought to be tried except [sex with] your grandma and traditional folk dancing’

    The same phrase exists in English — You should make a point of trying every experience once, excepting incest and folk-dancing — apparently earliest attributed in print to ‘a sympathetic Scot’ in the 1943 autobiography of Sir Arnold Bax.

  20. Thanks for the Esteri/Ester explanations/elaborations, juha! And those are great images of Tomula’s work, Crown!

  21. AJP Crown says

    Matt: I thought so too.

  22. David Marjanović says

    Full of piss […] ‘filled with youthful enthusiasm’

    Huh. How did that happen?

  23. Stu Clayton says

    I think you’re missing the sarcastic take on “youthful enthusiasm” implied by “full of piss”.

    Housebroken dogs, when they badly need to take a pee (are full of piss), get all excited and rar’in to go out on the town.

    Being full of piss makes a young person squirm on their chair and want to run out. Older people have adopted the prophylactic pee.

  24. Very true. I vividly remember when I was a kid being unwilling to take the time to pee, and then of course suffering the consequences (including the inevitable parental “I told you to go before we left!”), and I’ve since observed the phenomenon in other kids, and I can’t quite figure out why there’s such an unwillingness to take that obvious precaution. I guess it’s just part of the general “the future doesn’t exist, there is only the now” attitude of youth.

  25. AJP Crown says

    “Live now, pee later.”

  26. “I’ll pee when I’m dead.”

  27. Bathrobe says

    Japanese men will also say Mada ikite iru no! (I don’t think that’s too feminine) or perhaps Mada ikite ita? ‘So you’re still alive!’ if they haven’t heard from you for a while.

    ‘Hello to your swinging parts’

    ‘How are they hanging?’

  28. Finländare says

    There’s also a jocular expression Mitä serkumpi, sen herkumpi, which roughly translates as “The more closely someone is a cousin to you, the more ‘delicious’ that person is.” Some things just don’t translate.

    Edit: I suppose the “eww” effect would be roughly the same for English speakers on hearing something like “Close kin makes for delicious deeds.”

  29. John Cowan says

    I suffered from similar problems after I had broken my toes, not because I didn’t want to take the time, but because I didn’t want to get together Das Boot and the associated crutches etc. etc. more than absolutely necessary, and therefore remained immobile as long as posible.

  30. According to QI just now, “there are no known Anglo-Saxon swear words”.

    With emphasis on the “known”: the records of Anglo-Saxon that we have (allegedly) are religious or bureaucratic, and rather prim.

    QI often stretches my credulity. This seems too much. OTOH, for all the likely candidates I can think of, Etymonline is coming up with: history not known because of censorship. (There’s no “shit, piss or fuck” in Shakespeare nor in the KJV ?? Because Lord Chamberlain. Anything Chaucerian inferable back to A-S?) Any Hatters can contradict them?

  31. John Cowan says

    Plenty of piss in the KJV, though it uses dung rather than shit. But the point is that the words weren’t taboo: at most they were lower-class, unrefined, not the language of the upper class. Saying them carried no special charge.

  32. January First-of-May says

    Anything Chaucerian inferable back to A-S?

    IIRC, there are some words that show up in Chaucer, have Indo-European etymologies going through Old English, and are obscene today, but this doesn’t mean much about whether they were obscene in Chaucer’s time, and doesn’t mean anything about whether they were obscene in Old English (in which they’re typically unattested).

    Actually, do we even have any record of profanity/swear words, as such, from that far back (or earlier), in any language? I mean, presumably, if they were in any way taboo, they probably mostly wouldn’t have been recorded.
    IIRC, there’s a little from 1st century Latin that showed up in the graffiti at Pompeii (and even that much is mostly inferred from not showing up in more prudish works), but everything else is basically blank until something like the 16th century (and that barely).

  33. Biblical Hebrew mašttīn bǝqīr, literally ‘pisses at the wall’, is a dysphemism for a male person or a male dog. It doesn’t appear in the context of casual conversation, but of bitter prophecy. I’d kind of count it as slang.

  34. Richard Mix says

    Viäläks sääki elät? (‘Wow, are you still living?’)

    That’s something like the standard Springtime greeting among the Achumawi in the snowier part of California

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