Finnish for busy people

Swearing in Finnish – Kiroilu Kirosanat

This article series deals with swearing in Finnish. You can learn more about the different kinds of swear words and phrases.  Even if you don’t swear yourself, it’s useful to give the articles in this series a quick read.

If you live in Finland, you might also want to familiarize with these swear words for a different reason. It would be good to understand them in case someone addresses you with some of them. Being the subject of a verbal assault is bad, but it can feel even worse when you have no idea at all what they’re saying to you.

In this article we will look at how Finns feel about swearing, what swear words are used for and what types of swear words there are.

Table of Contents
  1. Attitudes Towards Swearing in Finnish
  2. Topics of Swearing
  3. Functions of Swearing
    1. Swears as interjections
    2. Swears as phrases
    3. Swears as insults
  4. Emotions of Swearing
  5. The Syntax of Swearing
  6. Alleviating Curse Words

1. Attitudes Towards Swearing in Finnish

While in some cultures swearing is considered rude (töykeä) and impolite (epäkohtelias), for many Finns these curse words can be just part of their everyday vocabulary. This is of course a generalization; not everyone is okay with constantly swearing. Most parents probably don’t want their kids to swear for example.

I doubt Finnish has more swear words (kirosana) than other languages, but they’re certainly often used with a nonchalance that’s unique to Finland. It’s plausible to claim that Finns are proud of their swearwords. Perkele is probably one of the first ten words a Finn teaches a foreigner interested in the language (perrrrrkele!).

2. Topics of Swearing in Finnish

Swearing draws its effect by breaking cultural taboos. Because of that, curse words are usually centered around three subjects:

Type Swear word Translation
Religion helvetti hell
Religion saatana satan
Religion perkele devil
Religion piru devil
Religion jumalauta goddamn
Sex organs vittu cunt
Sex organs pillu pussy
Sex organs kyrpä cock
Sex organs kulli cock
Excretion perse ass
Excretion paska crap, shit
Excretion kusi piss

3. Functions of Swearing in Finnish

Swear words include a whole range of profanities, vulgarities and obscenities. They can be used, for example, to blow off steam, express surprise, shock people or emphasize something.

3.1. Swears as interjections

Curse words can be used on their own (eg. Perkele! Saatana!). They can also be added to a phrase to give it more strength (eg. En halua tätä, saatana! “I don’t want this, dammit!”).

3.2. Swears as phrases

Swear words are often used in a phrase (eg. Painu vittuun! “Go to hell!”; Voi saatana! “Goddammit!”).

3.3. Swears as insults

Calling someone paskapää “a shithead” or perkeleen idiootti “a fucking idiot” is a way of using swears as insults.

4. Emotions of Swearing

The main purpose of swearing is to express emotions (tunteet), especially anger (suuttumus) and frustration (turhautuminen). The range of emotions is fairly wide.

  • Frustration: you can express your annoyance or exasperation with swear phrases.
    For example: voi helvetti “oh hell”; hitto soikoon “damn it”.
  • Anger: swears used for frustration can usually also be used to express anger.
    For example: jumalauta “god damn”; mitä helvettiä “what the hell”.
  • Surprise: in question sentences swear words can be used to express surprise or confusion.
    For example: mitä helvettiä “what the hell”; mitä vittua “what the fuck”.
  • Disbelief and doubt: you can express that you don’t believe what someone is saying.
    For example: hevonpaska (“horse’s shit”, bullshit), paskanmarjat (“shit’s berries”).
  • Emphatic persuasion: you can emphatically express that something is true with totta.
    For example: totta hemmetissä “damn right”.
  • Emphasis: you can also use swear words to emphasize a statement.
    For example: perhanan hyvin sanottu “darn well said”.
  • Pain: it’s common for people to swear when getting hurt.
    For example: Ai saatana, toi sattui “Fuck that hurt”.

5. The Syntax of Swearing

  • Genetive + adjective: a swear word can intensify the meaning of an adjective.
    For example: perkeleen hidas “devilishly slow”; helvetin hyvä “hellishly good”.
  • A swear word with -sti: an adverb swear word can itensify the meaning of a verb.
    For example: sataa helvestisti “it’s raining like hell”.
  • Totta + inessive (-ssa): the inessive of a swear word can be used with totta.
    For example: totta hemmetissä “damn right”
  • As interjections: swear words can appear in phrases that are used as interjections.
    For example: voi helvetti “oh hell”; hitto soikoon “damn it”.
  • In combination with älä: when impatiently forbidding someone to do something.
    For example: Älä helkatissa “No way in hell”; Älä jumalauta itke “don’t you fucking cry”.
  • At the end of a sentence: used to stress a statement.
    For example: Ei se kuitenkaan ymmärrä saatana “She doesn’t fucking understand anyway”.

5. Alleviating Curse Words

While most of us swear at least sometimes, swearing is still considered a bad, uncivilized habit by many. As such, people have invented less offensive versions of the swear words.

For example, the word helvetti “hell” can be replaced with helkutti, hemmetti, hemskutti, himputti or himskatti. These are the equivalent of “heck” in English. Likewise, vittu can be replaced with vitsi (kind of like fuck and fudge) and perkele with perkule (like damn and darn).

 

That’s it for this article!
Check out our other articles on swearing in Finnish next!

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