13 Apr 2013

Finnish snow guide

I just learned that Finnish language have more words to describe different kinds of snow than the Eskimos. After a bit of investigation I found out that there are actually over 40 words for snow (and you still wonder why I don't speak Finnish yet...).

I even found a blog specially dedicated to collect and document all the words for snow and ice in Finnish (over 120 words so far!).

Just for fun, I randomly picked up some of them and made my own snow guide. 



Conclusion:
1. Winter is long, very long.
2. There was not much to do in winter, Finns had 6 months every year to come up with snow words.
3. Life is too short to learn Finnish.

Despite of the linguistic mess regarding the word "snow", I have something to thank Finnish people:
I really appreciate that you did not have the energy to come up with all kinds of random verbs for "snowing". You only need one verb: sataa (to rain), and then you can say sataa lunta, which means 'it is raining snow' and can be used for nearly anything falling from the sky.

For example, if there is räntä instead of lunta, I can happily say it is raining räntä and stay indoors for the rest of the day (räntä sucks).

Related posts:


50 comments:

  1. Amazing! You've put a lot of effort into this and I find it absolutely apectacular!

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  2. After a long snowy night, in the morning Finns can describe walking in your yard to be walking in "hanki".
    The new layer of snow - say 10 to 50 cm deep - is also described as "hanki", the soft, powder snow layer.
    Walking in the snow - Kävellä hangessa
    I want to walk in the snow! - (Minä) haluan kävellä hangessa!
    Make a snowangel to the snow! - Tee lumienkeli hankeen!

    Talking snow less than 10cm deep is just snow and people talk like
    It snowed last night - Yöllä tuli lunta
    so it's nothing peculiar, nothing people usually count, just ordinary stuff :)

    Thanks for your post, it's eye opening to realize ordinary things in a new light!

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  3. nuoskalumi = snow that has sufficient amounts of water in it that makes it very easy to mold into deadly projectiles that the little bastards (aka kids) can use to project lethal force over unbeliavable distances on unsuspecting people

    pakkaslumi = snow that is frozen on the top due to new 0Kelvin temperatures over night creating an illusion of a hard surface (with a stress on the word illusion). "Hey, come over here, you can walk over the snow here.....oh f*******************************ck!!!!" as you fall through the thing and end up neck deep in the crap.

    I am sure there are others but those come to mind first....

    Kimmo

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    Replies
    1. due to new?? due to NEAR 0Kelvin temps I mean to say..

      Kimmo

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    2. 0 Kelvin? That's absolute zero, or minus 273 degrees Celsius. It gets cold here in winter, but not cold.

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    3. Pakkaslumi = kantohanki

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  4. Thank you guys!!! I definitely have to make Snow Guide Version 2.0 :-D

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  5. Hankikanto = Strong and thick layer of snow, which top of you can walk, whithout falling through the surface layer.
    Lumihiutale = Snowflake
    Suojalumi = Fresh snow, which is wet enough for making snowman. Synonym of "nuoska".
    Härmälumi = Very thin white layer, that covers nature in the morning after a cold and humid night

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    1. Another word for wet snow is suvilumi. Suvi=summer.
      Then there is suvikeli, which means wet conditions in wintertime (temperature >0celcius).
      Keli is an interesting word: it is more than just the weather, includung also road conditions (wet, slippery, snowy, full of sleet etc.). Pakkaskeli means cold weather, with dry or icy roads.

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    2. Actually "keli" refers more to the conditions instead of the weather. To discuss about the weather the proper word is "sää". Keli as a word is abused way too much in everyday discussions.

      Let's take two examples of the words. Both sentences are valid for the same situation.
      Millainen ajokeli on tänään? - Liukas
      Millainen ajosää on tänään? - Aurinkoinen

      What kind of driving conditions is today? - Slippery
      What kind of driving weather is today? - Sunny

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  6. And you can use pretty much any substantive as a verb... Examples pyryttää (to get heavy snowfall) , tuiskuttaa (to get windy snowfall) , lumittaa (to throw (even artificial) snow on a ski slope or such)... I can keep going...

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    Replies
    1. NOT lumittaa, it is called lumettaa! Substantive is lumetus.

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  7. Dön't forget puuterilumi (powder snow, a light, thin layer of dry snowflakes) and sohjo or lumisohjo (icky mixture of wet nuoska and loska)

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  8. I'm finnish and even i learnt from this, should i be worried? :D anyway, this was a great post!

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  9. I would say that "hanki" is thick (at least 20cm) layer of fresh snow (just fallen) and kantohanki (kanto+hanki) is same nyt layer is hard you can stand on it.

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    1. There is no limit in how thick a snow layer should be to be called hanki. Hanki is snow with hard cover. It forms when the temperature rises over the freezing point and melts the surface of snow after which the temperature falls under the freezing point and freezes the cover of snow. Often the HANKI is so hard that you can walk on it. I have even been driving with car on it - without falling through the cover!

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    2. So, it is not possible to make snowangels in HANKI - unless new snow has fallen on it. That is my opinion. Yet I could say KAHLATA HANGESSA (to walk in deep snow).

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  10. Well, kerstehanki = snow frozen so hard on the surface that you (and even elk) can walk on it. In rural areas young people love to drive on top of kerstehanki with mopeds. When we have kerstehanki (this expression is not so common, occurs in only some dialect areas - my father was from Central Finland) we can also say hankikanne. Kantaa = to bear. The hard snow (hanki) carries your weight.

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  11. My snow vocabulary might be a bit off, being a city-born southerner, but to me, hanki has always been just a large unified area covered by snow (or the snow that covers a large unified area, you get my point). Kinos, on the other hand, has been a pile of snow. Neither has anything to do with the looseness per se (at least in my head), though I guess one could go to subcategories of hanki, each with different attributes. I lack the vocabulary to do that though, if it is at all possible.

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    Replies
    1. Oh, and one word that has gone unsaid here (I think) is nietos: a thick, heavy layer of snow.

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    2. you're completely right, I think there has been a little mistake switching the two terms :-)

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  12. Raining snow could be also TUISKUTTAA comes from TUiSKU.

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  13. Very nice, one approvement though:
    Tykkylumi is more like the snow that builds a dense shell all around the tree or any other object in the way of the snow. It is formed not just by the snow, but also any other water around the spot (e.g. humid air). It is common at the "Tunturi":s up north, but is rare the souther you go. Over there it's just the plain "lunta oksien päällä" (normal density)

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  14. "Antaa lumipesu" is giving a person a "snow wash", meaning rubbing or casting snow on/at someone, usually in the facial region where there is no clothing. For verbal purposes only ;)

    Lumi[pallo]sota is a snow[ball]fight, but that's maybe not inside the category of naturally occurring snow, not to forget the "lumilinna" (snow castle).

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  15. Ohhh dear!! Kiitos everybody for the new words! Finns are the ultimate snow masters, no doubt about that!! Wish you all a happy winter and fingers crossed we get all kinds of snow this year (except räntä please) !! :-D

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  16. I'm sure you are aware of the Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eskimo_words_for_snow

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  17. Thank you; a most delightful post.

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  18. Please don't forget "keltainen lumi" (=yellow snow). It's the kind of snow you really should't eat.

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  19. The distinctions could be vital. In the north there was the word "sose" to describe melting snow that looses its structure. It could bear in the morning and then stick on ski or sled bottoms making it very hard to move anywhere. Now even our engineers have lost touch with snow: they may plan roofs that hold thick layers of new snow but collapse when it turns wet. What we lack is the famous British "wrong kind of snow", though :-)

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  20. Kuura = first layer of thin icy snow typically in autumn. You can see this on grass or trees in the morning. And later on of course on your eyelashes, eyebrows or beard after a brisky skiing for an hour or two, hence "kuuraparta" (kuura-beard).

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    Replies
    1. That's not snow, strictly speaking. That's frost, moisture in the air condensing and freezing.

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  21. For me "hanki" is a hard layer of snow, ehich carries you, walking on it or skiing on it...
    Dis have "lumilyhty" = a lantern made of snowballs (smallish), wher you put a candle inside

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  22. When my daughter was very young, and just learnt to speak, she actually invented new verb instead of "sataa lunta". LUMISEE.

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  23. I'm Finnish and I didn't actually know tykky, jotos or rannio. 30-years old and still learning my own language.

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  24. HANKI and KINOS are wrong; KINOS = hard pile... and HANKI = loose pile...

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    1. I would say 'hanki' is the surface layer of snow. 'Kinos' is a snowdrift or a mound or pile of snow.

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    2. I'd agree with I.:S:. - "kinos" is primarily a mound/pile made by wind, and secondarily by human activity. To my mind the distinguishing feature is shape, "hanki" is flat or has very soft curves (following the terrain), whereas "kinos" doesn't follow the terrain and is uneven, and often has peaks.

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  25. "Hankiainen" is also synonym for "hankikanto". I think that is the word people in East use. :)

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  26. I use almost all of those in regular speech. :D I'm from the countryside, yep. And they're so versatile: "suojakeli" and "suojasää" means the weather when the snow is "suojalumi" or "nuoska", "pyryttää" or "tuiskuaa" are verbs derived from "pyry" and "tuisku", "kinostaa" means that small snow drifts (kinos) are forming, usually they matter when they're forming on the road. I think "hankikanto" and "hanki" are quite abstract words, to me "hanki" just means the cover of snow, but implies that it's a bit thicker than just a thin layer. "Hankikanto" is to me a weather word, the state where the snow is such that it's possible to walk on top of "hanki", the cover of snow.

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  27. Hanki can have a hard top layer to walk on or be soft and loose. Hanki just means a thick layer of snow, whatever kind of snow. Hankikanto is the condition where the hanki has a hard top layer. A natural pile of snow is called a kinos, or if it is man-made, it's a lumikasa. Polanne is a very hard layer of snow and ice.

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  28. How much of the snow language is regional? My folks from Karjala and Pernio not only had different
    accents but "Miu mau mukkaa" (poor spelling) I always enjoyed "lumihiutalaita" for the sound quality.
    Here in NY, USA, we've had enough of it this winter!

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  29. Just to give my two cents: I love that Finnish also has a word for the fact that, indeed there is NO snow: "pälvi" = an area where the snow has melted away.

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  30. To add a few ones:

    nietonen: large area covered by snow and with thicker forms created by wind; like hanki, but thicker with plenty of areas of kinos.

    hankiainen: old hanki, where below there's old, porous snow and on the top, there is a layer of thawed and then frozen snow - hankiainen is hard enough for walking, sometimes even driving a car.

    viti: fresh snow that has come down in good frost. Like we have today (Jan 12, 2016)

    kohva: on top of lake ice, snow which is mixed with water that's risen up from below the ice.

    polanne: snow that is packed tight by stepping on it (or driving on it).

    siide: very thin, fine snow that has just come down.

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  31. Please read this article
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eskimo_words_for_snow
    and then tell us whether the Finns have more words for snow than Eskimos...

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  32. Ah this is so much fun! And I'm a finn.....

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