Is this the road to Ateritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä?

Posted by at 15:00

I have never met a Finn in the flesh, but they have always intrigued me. It all began with “Suomi Finland”. That’s what it says on Finnish postage stamps. I know this because I used to collect them as a boy. I also had stamps from the mysterious countries of Helvetia and Magyar Posta, which I suspected were hidden behind the Iron Curtain, because I couldn’t find them on any map. When I asked my mother, she sighed, walked over to the bookcase and pulled two volumes of Collier’s Encyclopaedia off the shelf. “I didn’t sit listening to that idiot for nothing, I hope?” she asked rhetorically. The idiot she was referring to was the door-to-door salesman who had stroked our little heads as he waxed lyrical about his “volumes crammed full of knowledge that no child should be without.” My mother was unimpressed by his spiel, but my father felt his children should have easy access to works of reference that allowed them to discover that the mysterious Helvetia and Magyar Posta were in fact Switzerland and Hungary or, more accurately, the Hungarian postal service.

But I always retained a soft spot for “Suomi Finland”, partly because they took the trouble to include their country’s name in English, which meant that, should I ever meet a real Finn, I could point to him or her and ask: “Suomi?”

As kids, we also had an inflatable dinghy that had warnings printed on the side in about fifteen different languages. Most of those languages needed lots of words to caution playing children. Finnish needed only four or five. Each word was packed with vowels, which made them sound like one-word poems when we read them out loud. We imagined Finns chanting these meditative sounds while floating in slow motion through the air with wing-sized skis strapped to their feet or as they flew along treacherous roads in fast cars.

Finland has, of course, produced some great architects and popular mobile phones, but I was still stuck with the image of rough-and-ready Finns chasing reindeer through the snow. In short, it was high time to lay this prejudice to rest. I wracked my brain, but no real strategy emerged, so I decided to go in search of the longest Finnish word I could find. According to several online sources, that word is:

Lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas

Of course I immediately committed the entire word to the Great Oracle and got more than 3,000 hits. To my delight, I saw that one of those hits was for a Facebook group devoted to this mega-word. I swiftly became the 377th member and learned that this is actually a compound term meaning “technical non-commissioned officer trainee specialized in aircraft jet engines”  (or something to that effect). I also learned that the longest single word is:

Epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkäänköhän

The longest Finnish place name is:

Äteritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä

Now all I need is a friendly Finn who can explain these words to me and answer the question that has been burning in my mind for so long: How many Finnish people are killed each year playing Scrabble?

(Seriously though, suomalaiset ystävät, where should we go when we visit your beautiful country? This is a travel blog, after all.)

Richard

17 Responses to Is this the road to Ateritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä?

  1. Sanna

    Hello Richard! Thanks for a blog post which made me laugh.. and I’m a true Finn, just living in the Netherlands at the moment. Sorry that can’t be able to explain those words for you :D Maybe somebody wiser can but I have no idea even myself how to say or explain those.

    As for interesting destination in Finland, I would definitely recommend my home town Tampere.. which is a bit smaller and warmer city than Helsinki. Tampere is a compact city, with a centrum located between two beautiful lakes. There’s plenty of things to do and almost everywhere they speak English. But there are soooo many things I would like foreigners to experience in Finland, e.g. dark and cold winter with -30’c, 5 hours daylight and 2 meters of snow or the beautiful summer with fresh and clean nature, clean waters to swim in and the Finnish people enjoying sunshine while sitting on a terrace with a beer and chatting with friends. They say that the Finnish people really know how to enjoy the good weather and sun, because it’s not that obvious for us. And we might be characterized as silent and unfriendly people, but I assure you that’s not true. Just need to meet the right people and you will.. as long as you come to Finland with an open mind!

    • Richard

      Hi Sanna. Thanks for your warm words and suggestions. I shall add Tampere to my Finnish intinerary. What’s “Best wishes” in Finnish?

      • Sanna

        Best wishes could be translated in “Parhain terveisin” :)

  2. Sanna

    Hello Richard! Thanks for a blog post which made me laugh.. and I’m a true Finn, just living in the Netherlands at the moment. Sorry that can’t be able to explain those words for you :D Maybe somebody wiser can but I have no idea even myself how to say or explain those.

    As for interesting destination in Finland, I would definitely recommend my home town Tampere.. which is a bit smaller and warmer city than Helsinki. Tampere is a compact city, with a centrum located between two beautiful lakes. There’s plenty of things to do and almost everywhere they speak English. But there are soooo many things I would like foreigners to experience in Finland, e.g. dark and cold winter with -30’c, 5 hours daylight and 2 meters of snow or the beautiful summer with fresh and clean nature, clean waters to swim in and the Finnish people enjoying sunshine while sitting on a terrace with a beer and chatting with friends. They say that the Finnish people really know how to enjoy the good weather and sun, because it’s not that obvious for us. And we might be characterized as silent and unfriendly people, but I assure you that’s not true. Just need to meet the right people and you will.. as long as you come to Finland with an open mind!

    • Richard

      Hi Sanna. Thanks for your warm words and suggestions. I shall add Tampere to my Finnish intinerary. What’s “Best wishes” in Finnish?

      • Sanna

        Best wishes could be translated in “Parhain terveisin” :)

  3. guest

    “But I always retained a soft spot for “Suomi Finland”, partly because they took the trouble to include their country’s name in English”

    The reason why it says Suomi Finland is because Finland is bilingual (Finnish and Swedish) and has therefore nothing to do with English.

    Epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkäänköhän is also a “made-up” word but still a word that can be used (probably never has though) and means something like “even without his unorganized ability” not quite sure since I, despite living in Finland, am not a Finn.

    Where to go? Lapland, Suomenlinna, Saimaa, Åland (in the summer) and everywhere in between:)

    • Richard

      Thanks for the pointers! And for shattering my childhood dream…

  4. guest

    “But I always retained a soft spot for “Suomi Finland”, partly because they took the trouble to include their country’s name in English”

    The reason why it says Suomi Finland is because Finland is bilingual (Finnish and Swedish) and has therefore nothing to do with English.

    Epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkäänköhän is also a “made-up” word but still a word that can be used (probably never has though) and means something like “even without his unorganized ability” not quite sure since I, despite living in Finland, am not a Finn.

    Where to go? Lapland, Suomenlinna, Saimaa, Åland (in the summer) and everywhere in between:)

    • Richard

      Thanks for the pointers! And for shattering my childhood dream…

  5. Hannulahti1

    Hello Richard

    It was nice to read your article about your interest in Finland and the Finnish language. We Finns consider it to be amazing when a foreigner shows interest in our language which differs so much from the most of the European languages. Your article could be seen like a pleasure to become acknowledged by someone abroad.

    Some observations in your text can be made. First of all you mentioned that Finnish stamps had the name Finland written in English. Actually it is written in Swedish which is a second official language in Finland. It just happens to be the same Finland in both these languages and in many other languages too.

    And yes, Finnish language differs in many ways from the Indo-European languages. The language does use neither articles nor prepositions. Instead of prepositions uses our language cases with altogether 15 of them. Thus become words so long and so few words are being needed to designate intentions.

    I used Google to search the right translation for the monster word. Someone with better skills in English had translated it. No one actually uses words like that although it is possible and right and such words are then more theoretical. The meaning can be expressed with a simple way with separate words. It goes this way:

    epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkäänköhän
    j
    ärjestelmä = system
    järjestelmällinen = systematic
    järjestelmällistyttämätön = something that has not been made systematic
    epäjärjestelmällistyttämätön = something that has not been made unsystematic
    epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyys = “something that has not been made unsystematic”ity (like ‘immobile’ -> ‘immobility’)
    epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsä = with his/her ability to makethings unsystematic
    epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkään = even with his/herability to make things unsystematic
    epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkäänkö = even with his/herability to make things unsystematic?
    epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkäänköhän = barely even withhis/her ability to make things unsystematic?

    Äteritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä is a name that mostly means nothing to my understanding. Jänkä is a kind of bog which appears in Lapland in Northern Finland. I reckon also the words puoli and lauta which means half and board. The rest is like nonsense to me.

    But don’t worry, Scrabble is not forbidden in Finland! I by myself have never played it but I checked the rules. The rules tell me that the words must be used in basic form or infinitive with verbs. I cannot be sure but I think anyone has not yet died because of this game.

    Because this is a travel blog I would like to recommend all the readers to come to visit Finland twice no matter where you go. First you should come to see and feel our winter and then come to visit us in summer. It will be nice a comparison between the seasons. You might feel winter like hell with -30C temperatures and summer as heaven with +30C temperatures, or vice versa but it is worth to experience how Finland and its inhabitants are like another country in winter and summer.

    Best regards
    Hannu

    • Richard

      Wow, Hannu, thanks for the crash course in Finnish. Always intriguing to see how other languages are structured. And good to hear that Scrabble isn’t banned in Finland. Parhain terveisin! (Or has Sanna led me astray and am I insulting your grandmother?)

  6. Hannulahti1

    Hello Richard

    It was nice to read your article about your interest in Finland and the Finnish language. We Finns consider it to be amazing when a foreigner shows interest in our language which differs so much from the most of the European languages. Your article could be seen like a pleasure to become acknowledged by someone abroad.

    Some observations in your text can be made. First of all you mentioned that Finnish stamps had the name Finland written in English. Actually it is written in Swedish which is a second official language in Finland. It just happens to be the same Finland in both these languages and in many other languages too.

    And yes, Finnish language differs in many ways from the Indo-European languages. The language does use neither articles nor prepositions. Instead of prepositions uses our language cases with altogether 15 of them. Thus become words so long and so few words are being needed to designate intentions.

    I used Google to search the right translation for the monster word. Someone with better skills in English had translated it. No one actually uses words like that although it is possible and right and such words are then more theoretical. The meaning can be expressed with a simple way with separate words. It goes this way:

    epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkäänköhän
    j
    ärjestelmä = system
    järjestelmällinen = systematic
    järjestelmällistyttämätön = something that has not been made systematic
    epäjärjestelmällistyttämätön = something that has not been made unsystematic
    epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyys = “something that has not been made unsystematic”ity (like ‘immobile’ -> ‘immobility’)
    epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsä = with his/her ability to makethings unsystematic
    epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkään = even with his/herability to make things unsystematic
    epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkäänkö = even with his/herability to make things unsystematic?
    epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkäänköhän = barely even withhis/her ability to make things unsystematic?

    Äteritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä is a name that mostly means nothing to my understanding. Jänkä is a kind of bog which appears in Lapland in Northern Finland. I reckon also the words puoli and lauta which means half and board. The rest is like nonsense to me.

    But don’t worry, Scrabble is not forbidden in Finland! I by myself have never played it but I checked the rules. The rules tell me that the words must be used in basic form or infinitive with verbs. I cannot be sure but I think anyone has not yet died because of this game.

    Because this is a travel blog I would like to recommend all the readers to come to visit Finland twice no matter where you go. First you should come to see and feel our winter and then come to visit us in summer. It will be nice a comparison between the seasons. You might feel winter like hell with -30C temperatures and summer as heaven with +30C temperatures, or vice versa but it is worth to experience how Finland and its inhabitants are like another country in winter and summer.

    Best regards
    Hannu

    • Richard

      Wow, Hannu, thanks for the crash course in Finnish. Always intriguing to see how other languages are structured. And good to hear that Scrabble isn’t banned in Finland. Parhain terveisin! (Or has Sanna led me astray and am I insulting your grandmother?)

  7. Sven Portengen

    For something really finish to eat go to Lappi in Helsinki. And the photo museum is also very special they just had an exhibition on pentti samalahtaa famous finisch photograher. You can do that With the very cool metro.

    For the rest take a boat and a sauna.

    Groetjes

  8. Sven Portengen

    For something really finish to eat go to Lappi in Helsinki. And the photo museum is also very special they just had an exhibition on pentti samalahtaa famous finisch photograher. You can do that With the very cool metro.

    For the rest take a boat and a sauna.

    Groetjes

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