The Rooster of Honour – Finnish idioms, literally


In the Finnish version of this blog post, I started with a few funny mistakes made by machine translation tools. Subtitling tools often use automatic translators (similar to Google Translate, except better) to create a template that the translator then edits. Machine translators are funniest with idioms, as they often translate them literally when they are figures of speech and should be translated with a target language equivalent. I don't have any real-life examples for this post, because I haven't done any Finnish to English subtitling. Instead, I will translate idioms literally myself, and hopefully leave you smiling as well as wondering, where on earth these phrases originate from.

So below I have listed some Finnish idioms with English translations, which may or may not give you some insight into the Finnish history and mindset. Enjoy!

Ota lusikka kauniiseen käteesi - Take the spoon into your beautiful hand [Swallow your pride and get on with it]

Älä maalaa piruja seinille - Don't paint devils on the walls [Don't be a scaremonger]

Tehdä kärpäsestä härkänen - To turn a fly into an ox [To make a mountain out of a molehill]

Laittaa luu kurkkuun - To shove a bone down someone's throat [To shut somebody up]

Jäädä nuolemaan näppejään - Left licking your fingers [to end up with nothing]

Oppia kantapään kautta - Learn through one's heel [Learn the hard way]

Hänelle ei kunnian kukko laula - The rooster of honour does not sing for him [He won't get away with this]

Hän ymmärtää yskän - They understand the cough [They can read the room]

Miksi mennä merta edemmäs kalaan? - Why go fishing further than the sea? [Why carry coals to Newcastle?]

Nakit silmillä - Wieners on your eyes [very drunk]

Perseet olalla - Arses on your shoulders [very drunk]

Pullat hyvin uunissa - Buns well in the oven [Things are great (not pregnant)]

Olla ketunhäntä kainalossa - To have a foxtail hidden in one's armpit [to have a hidden agenda]

Puhaltaa samaan hiileen - To blow on the same ember [to work towards a common goal]

Puhua puuta heinää - To talk wood hay [to speak nonsense]

Mennä päin mäntyä - To hit a pine [to fail]

Mennä jauhot suuhun - To put flour in their mouth [To leave someone speechless]

Älä vielä heitä kirvestä kaivoon - Don't throw the axe in the well just yet [Don't give up yet]

Puilla paljailla - On bare pieces of wood [penniless]

Persaukinen - Open-arsed [penniless]

Matti kukkarossa - Matti in one's purse [penniless]

These last ones are all about not being too smart:

Sillä ei ole kaikki muumit laaksossa - He doesn't have all the Moomin's in the valley

Se putosi kuin eno veneestä - She fell like an uncle from a boat

Se on sekasin ku seinäkello - He's as mixed up as a hanging clock

Se oli äimän käkenä - She was as a packing needle's cuckoo

Se tuli jälkijunassa - He came on a later train

Se putosi kärryiltä - She fell off the cart

Pää on tyhjä kuin Jeesuksen hauta pääsiäisaamuna - His head is as empty as Jesus' grave on Easter morning

Even though I hope you enjoyed the post, I will end this with a very rude Finnish goodbye: Go ski into a spruce!