Finnish profanity

Many Finns frequently use profanity in everyday speech even though their culture is considered more high context. While not all Finns swear, frequent swearing is a mark of youth culture. However, it is commonly considered impolite to swear excessively in public and official occasions and particularly in front of children in all regions of the world.

The words often have old origins and some have Pagan roots that after Christian influence were turned from names of deities and spirits to profanity and used as such. Nowadays few Finns know of the origins and intended original use of the words. Finnish swearwords can be used as adjectives or adverbs with proper conjugation.

The people in the neighbouring countries to Finland often consider Finnish swear words harsher than their own, and even use heavily mis-pronounced versions of them, most notably perkele. Native Finns tend to consider the harshness exaggerated, while others use it to their advantage.

There is a book made by Jari Tammi named Suuri kirosanakirja ("The great dictionary of profanities"), which is literally a list of Finnish swear words. The book is published by WSOY, and the first edition was published in 1993.

Additionally, virtually any word can be used in place of profanity by for example preceding it with voi (an interjection meaning "oh!", for example voi paska "oh shit!") or adding vieköön (third person singular imperative of the verb viedä "to take", for example hiisi vieköön "may the goblin take it"). These were more prominent in older Finnish, e.g. raato "dead body" or peto "predator". There are also other similar non-offensive constructs like taivahan talikynttilät ("tallow candles of heaven"). There is also an inventory of non-offensive curse words.

List of Finnish profanities

helvetti Helvetti translates to hell and has roughly the same meaning in the English language. It has its roots in the Swedish word Helvete, with the same meaning. An often used phrase is "What the hell?" in Finnish "Mitä helvettiä?" Some words used to replace it, depending on dialect, include helkutti, helvata, hemmetti, hemskutti, himputti and himskatti. Derivative terms: helvetillinen "infernal".
hitto, hiisi Hitto, probably from pagan origin, is a relatively mild swear word, but still considered an expletive. Its diminutive form is "hittolainen". Both words are references to a sacred grove or burial site or a mythical creature (possibly also Hittavainen). It can nowadays be translated to "a devil" or some other little satanic being. The word is in the same category as other "mild" swear words like "helkkari" or "himskatti". Hiisi means either Hell itself or some sort of satanic being, specially as a wish (painu hiiteen, literally "go to hiisi" but means "go to hell". Hiisi vieköön, "may the hiisi take (it)".) Hiisi is also a Finnish, evil mythical creature, but it isn´t the same thing as a devil. Word hiiteen is abbreviation from word hiitola, what is a place what ancient finns thought was hiihis locality. Hitto is usually translated Damn (it). One of the funniest forms of using hitto word could be hitto soikoon, "may the hitto chime".
huora The word means whore, and like the English word, may be considered too profane for civil conversation, to be replaced by prostituoitu "prostitute" in the literal meaning. Although it can be used to call someone names, it is not used as a swearword on its own (cf. Spanish or Polish).
jumalauta 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 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, jumaliste or jumalavita.
kulli A word for "penis", usually literally, considered somewhat profane.
kusi Kusi, pronounced /kusi/, means "urine" with a similar connotation as "piss". By itself it refers to actual urine and is considered only mildly offensive in colloquial language. It's used of people in compound words, such as "kusipää" (pisshead, common translation of "asshole"), as very offensive insults. Inoffensive synonyms are the clinical term virtsa ("urine") and the childish pissa ("pee"). 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. Foreign visitors have been amused by the product "Superpiss" for windshield wiper fluid. Derivative terms: kusettaa (jotakuta) "to defraud, to cheat (someone)", kusettaa (in passive mood) "feel an urge to urinate" (these differ by case government; the former is always accompanied by a subject in the partitive case).
kyrpä Literally "cock" in the sense of "penis"; 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 fuck!". The widespread verb vituttaa "to feel angry and depressed" originates from its meaning "to want pussy". Therefore, classically, women should not use vituttaa, but kyrpiä, e.g. kyrpii "this makes me feel bad". One form of using the word is "kyrpä otsassa" which means that someone is really pissed off. The literal meaning is "to have a dick on the forehead".
mulkku Has the literal meaning "penis", but may refer, like English "prick", to an unpleasant man, both as a noun and as an adjective.
molo Usually used only literally for "penis", somewhat profane. Has a derivation molopää, corresponding to English "dickhead".
muna Literally means "egg" and may refer to a literal penis, but is not considered an insult or particularly profane. For example, there is a gay cruise named Munaristeily, which is publicly marketed as such. It also means "testicle", usually said in plural form munat "testicles". Olla munaa can mean either being courageous or just obscene, to "have balls".
paska Paska translates as "shit" or "crap" and has approximately the same context in English and Finnish, although it may be more profane. It has the same connonations of "shoddy" or "broken," which may even surpass the word's use in the original sense in frequency.[1] Inoffensive synonyms are kakka ("poo"), 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 continuous use since at least the Proto-Finnic of 3000 BC.[2] 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 by the name, and Paskahousu is a card game, a relative of Shithead, that's popular with children and teenagers. Derivative terms: paskiainen "shithead" (or "son of a bitch"), paskamainen "unfair, depressing, unpleasant, shitty", paskainen "(literally) shitty".
perkele Perkele was originally imported from Latvian, supposedly transformed from Latvian god of thunder Pērkons, as an alternate name for the thunder god of Finnish paganism, Ukko, and co-opted by the Christian church, but it isn´t a synonym for the devil. Perkele or Ukko was rain and thundergod, like a Finnish substitution for Zeus." [1]. 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! Lauluja Suomesta ("Perkele! Songs from Finland"). When used to express discontent or frustration, perkele often suggests that the speaker 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. Derivative terms: perkeleellinen "infernal".
perse Perse ("ass") can be used either literally or as a semi-strong swear word. It is often found in expressions like "Tämä on perseestä" ("This (situation) is from the ass!") The similarities with the Latin phrase "per se", the Hungarian "persze" (which means "of 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. Derivative terms: perseet (olalla), literally "to have one's arse up on one's shoulders", that is, "drunk".
pillu Pillu translates to "cunt" and is not a strong swear word, but not something to say to one's mother-in-law, either. Non-profane synonyms for the literal meaning include römpsä, tavara (literally "stuff"), toosa (actually an oldish dialectical name by Swedish origin for little box, container, "dosa". It can also refer to TV), pimppi, pimpsa, tuhero, tussu (which also means female pubic hairs).
piru Piru, meaning devil is not always considered a swearword but sometimes used in a similar fashion to the word damn: "Damn it all" - "Piru vieköön" - "shall (the) Devil take (it)" A more proper word for devil is paholainen. Derivative terms: pirullinen "devilish".
reva Reva is another reference to the female genitalia, akin to vittu. It is also used to refer to backside ("perse" or ass). However, it is not an actual swearword but carries a notion of vulgarity. 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 encounters between her and Mr. Topi Uosukainen as rintaa, reittä ja revää (alternatively spelled "revaa") ("[I was utterly]... breasts, thighs and quim.") Reva is also used occasionally in reference to buttocks and can therefore also be translated as "ass". A loose translation for Täyden kympin reva is "Top class ass".
runkata Runkata (verb) means "to wank". This, and the agent runkkari or runkku ("wanker") is an extremely offensive word and rarely used, but when used it usually has other swear words said with it such as "Saatanan runkkari!".
ryökäle Scoundrel. A curse word specific to the older generation, now considered non-offensive.
saatana Saatana means quite literally Satan, but used in a similar fashion to helvetti. Often used replacement words for it are saamari and samperi. Along with "perkele" and "vittu", this is one of the most classic and most used words in Finnish. Often used together with helvetti as saatanan helvetti. Derivative terms: saatanallinen "satanic".
skeida Skeida is Helsinki slang for "shit". Because of its newer origin, it is considered less profane than paska, although still not exactly a nice word to say. Skeida can be used as a profane insult (tää on täyttä skeidaa "this is full of shit") but unlike paska, it is not used as an oath or a curse. Although the word is fairly well known in Helsinki, people from outside the capital area might not understand it. Skeida also means garbage or trash.
vittu Vittu is an 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. 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 or expression, as in mitä vittua? "what the fuck?". Other common phrases with vittu include voi vittu ("Fuck this" or "Oh fuck"), ja vitut! ("The fuck you say!" / "Bullshit!"); haista vittu "fuck you!", literally "go smell a cunt"; painu (hevon) vittuun, "go to (horse's) cunt"; olla naama norsun vitulla, "to have one's face like the elephant's cunt", meaning to be sour and unfriendly. Entire sentences can be constructed using these combinations "Vittu, vituttaa niin vitusti" etc. Occasionally, one 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, vittu is also used as an energetic mood, as in "vitun iso" ("fucking big") or "Mä meen vittu sinne" ("I'm really fucking going there") or to declare a negative outcome, as in meni vituiksi ("fucked up"). Similar-sounding euphemistic replacements include hitto (see above), vitsi or hitsi. Also kettu ("fox") is often used as a replacement word due to its rhyming with vittu. Several verbs and adjective have also been derived from vittu: vituttaa literally means "to want/need pussy", though the meaning of it is actually something like "to feel angry and depressed", vittuuntua "to get angry and insulted", vittumainen an adjective for "unpleasant and annoying". In more polite conversation these derivations can be done from the euphemism kettu: ketuttaa, kettumainen etc. The other euphemisms mentioned above cannot be used to form such derivations. Vittu is commonly combined with other profanities, as in vittusaatana and vittuperkele.

See also

References

  1. ^ Korhonen, Taro; Miika Nousiainen (2007) (in Finnish). Paskakirja. Finland: Like Kustannus Oy. p. 23. ISBN 9789524719414. 
  2. ^ Korhonen, Taro; Miika Nousiainen (2007) (in Finnish). Paskakirja. Finland: Like Kustannus Oy. pp. 24–25. ISBN 9789524719414. 
  3. ^ Thomas, Bill (2006-03-26). "The Finnish Line". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/22/AR2006032201943.html. Retrieved 2007-06-09. 
  4. ^ Juhani, Sirén (2003). "Perkele!" (in Finnish). City magazine. http://www.city.fi/lehti/article.php?id=832. Retrieved 2007-06-09. 

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