Finnish language blog

A conversation in the center of the Middle-earth (Keski-)

Many words related to concepts such as “middle” or “centre” are derived from the root “keski-“. For example keskusta ~ centre and keskellä ~ in the middle.
“Kaupungin keskusta on kaupungin keskellä”/ “The city centre is in the middle of the city”
Keskusta means also the political centre, or the Finnish Centre party, Keskusta puolue.

The historical Middle ages are “keskiaika“, but when a person is middle aged, he is “keski-ikäinen“.

Wednesday is “keskiviikko“, because it’s in the middle of the week (as “Mittwoch” in German).

If something is unfinished, you are probably in the middle of the progress, that’s why: unfinished ~ kesken.

Keskellä means also “in between”. For example, “Maija istuu Pekan ja Villen keskellä.” / “Maija is sitting in between of Pekka and Ville”.

Conversation is communication between two or more people. That’s why conversation ~ keskustelu.

Two more verbs derived from this root are keskittää and keskittyä ~ concentrate.

Koskaan et muuttua saa (muu)

Finnish cows say “muu!“. Probably by coincidence, it means “other” or “else” in Finnish.
“voiko joku muu tehdä sen?” / “Can somebody else do it?”

Many words derived from this root are related to somekind of change. For example “to change oneself” is “to become the other” = muuttua. “Se muuttui muuksi” / “It changed into something else”.

The transitive verb (the one with an object) is “muuttaa“. “Ihmistä ei voi muuttaa, ellei hän halua muuttua” / “You cannot change a person, if he doesn’t want to change.”

“Muuttaa” is also used when you move (“change a place”), for example “Muutan uuteen asuntoon perjantaina.” “I’ll move to a new flat on Friday“.

Collective nouns with -sto-suffix

Words ending with “sto” usually mean “a large amount of something”. For example a library (kirjasto) is a collection of many books (kirja) and a crew (miehistö) consists of several men (mies).

laiva -> laivasto
ship -> navy

kirja -> kirjasto
book -> library

mies -> miehistö
man -> crew

maa -> maasto
ground -> terrain

kortti -> kortisto
card -> register

näppäin -> näppäimistö
key -> keyboard

elin -> elimistö
organ -> organism

raha -> rahasto
money -> fund

astia -> astiasto
dish -> tableware

henkilö -> henkilöstö
person -> personnel

kalu – > kalusto
tool -> arsenal

vuori -> vuoristo
montain – > mountain range

tieto -> tiedosto
information -> file

saari -> saaristo
island -> archipelago

kone -> koneisto
machine – > machinery

huone -> huoneisto
room -> apartment

The easy sausage / piece of cake

Se on helppo nakki. / It’s a piece of cake.

While in English something is “a piece of cake”, in Finnish it’s “an easy sausage” (“nakki” is that kind of small hot dog or a frankfurter sausage, to be exact).

In English, you say “to make hay”, when you use an opportunity to get the most benefit. In Finnish, you say “helppoa kuin heinänteko” / “Easy as making hay.”

“Like taking candy from a baby”, isn’t a common idiom in Finnish, but a direct translation would be “helppoa kuin karkin varastaminen lapselta”.

The forest answers in the same way one shouts at it

Niin metsä vastaa kuin sinne huudetaan. / The forest answers in the same way one shouts at it.

This proverb means that your deeds have their consequences and the English equivalent would be “What goes around comes around”.

“Sitä niittää, mitä kylvää” comes from Bible: “You reap what you sow.” Other proverbs with the same meaning are
“siten makaa miten petaa” / As you make your bed, so you must lie on it and
“sitä saa, mitä tilaa”/ “you get what you order”.

The hunger grows by eating

Nälkä kasvaa syödessä / The hunger grows by eating

The more you eat, the more you crave, the English equivalent would probably be “I am a bottomless pit”. This applies also to other good things in life besides food.

Apparently the same idea exists in French “L’appétit vient en mangeant.”

On the other hand “ei makeaa mahan täydeltä” / “don’t fill your stomack with sweets” means that you shouldn’t have too much good things.

A fox tail under one’s arm

Hänellä on ketunhäntä kainalossa. / He has a fox tail under his arm.

The cunning fox is a metaphor for dishonesty, so hiding a fox tail refers to some kind of dodginess. A similar idiom exists in English: “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”, and it’s also a common saying in Finnish: “Hän on susi lammasten vaatteissa.”

Another idiom related to suspicious things is “Juttuun oli koira haudattuna.” / “There’s a dog buried in it.” In English, you’d probably say something like “there’s something fishy about it” or “I smell a rat.”

10 Finnish idioms with animals

1. aasinsilta “ass’ bridge”: a relationship between two otherwise separate phenomenon.

2. leijonanosa “lion’s portion”: the largest part of something.

3. koiranilma “dog’s weather”: horrible weather, as in “rains cats and dogs”.

4. kissanpäivät “cat’s days”: abundant life.

5. hevonkuusi “horse’s spruce”: a place in the middle of nowhere.

6. kananlento “chicken’s flight”: some short lived enterprise.

7. kananlihalla ~ goose bumbs (lit.~ “chicken’s meat”): when it’s really cold.

8. karhunpalvelus “bear favour”: a favour done with good intentions but with a bad outcome.

9. syntipukki ~ scapegoat (lit. ~”sin goat” ): a surrogate victim.

10. hiirenhiljainen “mouse silent”: very silent.