Sunday, January 2, 2011

English-Finnish idioms


English translation
a bridge of a donkey. From Latin pons asinis
A tenuous connection between the old discussion topic and a new one.
from the time of Adam
(Of an object) very old, old-fashioned
alkaa vetää
to start to pull (notice: vetää, much like English set, has various unrelated meanings)
To leave immediately.
Antaa vetää!
let pull
To ask someone leave immediately, "Get out/off!".
aukoa päätään
to open one's head
To speak provocatively to someone.


English translation
ei olla jäniksen selässä
not to be riding a rabbit
Not to be in an immediate hurry.
ei olla suu tuohesta
not to have a mouth of birch bark
Not to abstain from alcohol (always used with a negative).
ei sylkeä lasiin
not to spit into the glass
Not to abstain from alcohol (always used with a negative).
eilisen teeren poika
son of yesterday's grouse
Inexperienced, gullible (usually used with a negative)
elää kuin pellossa
to live as if in a field
To live without cleaning up after oneself, or bothering about what others think about one.
en minä voi siksi muuttua
I can't change into that
A statement that a desired object simply isn't available, no matter how much someone keeps asking for it. The word "siksi" (into that) is substituted with the object in question, in translative "-ksi".


English translation
by throwing it
With little or no effort required.
heittää lusikka nurkkaan
to throw the spoon in the corner
To die.
heittää veivinsä
to throw one's crankshaft
To die.
heittää (jollakin) vesilintua
to throw (something) at waterfowl
To throw away. (As in throwing into a lake.)
hevoset karkaa
the horses will run away
An euphemism for "your fly is open".
huitsin Nevadaan
hevon kuuseen
to Nevada (for all I care)
to the horse's sprucetree
Away, to an unknown place, never to be seen again. While the name Nevada is an obvious reference to the U.S. state, the word "huitsin" is probably a reference to the ancient spirit of the woods according to finnish sagas, Hiisi.
hymyillä kuin hangon keksi (Hangon keksi)
smile like a boat hook (also, incorrectly, "a biscuit from Hanko")
To smile very broadly and happily.


English translation
ihmisten ilmoilla
where people are (lit. in people's air)
At a place popular or populated enough to earn one's respect. Can also be used more literally, to mean at a place where one can be rescued.
irtoaa kuin mummon hammas
breaks loose like a grandma's tooth
Goes very, very easily.


English translation
joko teet tai itket ja teet
either you'll do it or you'll cry and do it
A direct order to do something, whether the addressed wants to do it or not. The word "teet" ('you do') can be substituted with whatever verb is necessary from context.
Jumalan selän takana
behind God's back
Possibly a calque from the English phrase "a godforsaken place". Sometimes implies a disrespect of rural communities.
juosta pää kolmantena jalkana
To run with one's head as a third leg
To be in a great hurry
juosten kustu
(as if) urinated while running
Haphazardly implemented.
järki jäässä
(common sense) frozen
Being clueless about something or understanding the point slowly.


English translation
kaidalla polulla
on the narrow path
To live within the law (possible Biblical metaphor).
kaksipa päätä makkarassa
there're two ends in a sausage
two sides of a thing, cf. "two sides of a coin"
kana kynittävänä
(has) a chicken to pluck
To have unresolved disputes, cf. English "bone to pick"
Kankkulan kaivoon
into the well of Kankkula
to go to waste.
kestää ikä ja terveys
to take the time of one's age and health
To take a far too long time, or be of far too much effort.
keskellä ei mitään
middle of the nowhere
Calque from English — natively korvessa
kiertää kuin kissa kuumaa puuroa
to circle like a cat circles hot porridge
To constantly and obviously covet something without actually making a move to get it, or to try to approach a difficult topic of speech in a roundabout way.
koira haudattuna
a dog buried here
An implication that there's something foul behind the scenes, the situation is not what it appears to be.
konstit on monet (, sanoi akka, kun kissalla pöytää pyyhki)
the ways are many (said the woman while wiping the table with a cat)
There's more than one way to do something. Often used when it becomes necessary to resort to unconventional methods.
korjata luunsa
to pick up one's bones
To finally get around to leaving.
in the backwoods
A place that is somewhere in an area with no interesting things surrounding it.
kuin allit kalliolla (also misheard "nallit")
like ducks (exactly: a particular species (Long-tailed Duck) that leaves last in the autumn) on a cliff
Left by oneself, without outside support.
kuin Euroopan/maailman omistaja
like someone who owns Europe/the world
Acting excessively posh and snobby. Usually an implication of misplacen superiority towards others.
kuin kaksi marjaa
like two berries
Two people or things that seem extremely alike; two peas in a pod.
kuin perseeseen ammuttu karhu
like a bear which has been shot in the ass
Being extremely cranky.
kuin seipään niellyt
as if swallowed a spear
Standing unnaturally or needlessly upright. To be seemingly nervous.
kuin tervan juontia
like drinking tar
Extremely slow, difficult, or ardurous.
kuin tuhka tuuleen
like ash in the wind
Disappeared without trace.
kuin viilipytty
like a pot of sour milk
Very calm.
kukkona tunkiolla
like a rooster on top of the carbage pile
Boasting oneself, being "king of the hill"


English translation
ei (tule) lasta eikä paskaa
this won't result in either a baby or shit
Describes an unsuccessful, painful effort.
lavealla tiellä
on the wide road
To live outside the law (possible Biblical metaphor).
lukea kuin piru Raamattua
read like the Devil reads the Bible
To deliberately look for loopholes, in order to follow the letter without following the spirit.
lähteä kuin hollituvasta
to leave as if leaving an inn
To leave without cleaning up after oneself. The word "hollitupa" comes from the verb "hålla" (keep) in the Swedish language.
puhua läpiä päähän(sä)
to speak a hole into (one's) head
To make statements without requisite knowledge. Often used of one's own words


English translation
Manu on työnsä tehnyt, Manu saa mennä
Manu has done his job, Manu is dismissed
An ironic expression, when faced with ingratitude after doing a favor. (Does not refer to the former president Mauno Koivisto.)
(tuli kuin) Manulle illallinen
(it came like) like an evening meal to Manu
Gaining something good without any effort
Matti kukkarossa
Matti in a wallet
Broke (no money).
menneen talven lumia
previous winter's snow
Not relevant anymore, often used of past offences or sorrows, similar in tone to English "let bygones be bygones".
mennä pipariksi
to become gingerbread
Something goes completely wrong.
mennä putkeen
go into the tube (or pipe)
To succeed, to work as planned.
(istua ja) miettiä syntyjä syviä
(to sit and) contemplate the deep births
To meditate on the mysteries of the world; used ironically, to do nothing (from Finnish mythology).
(heittää) mäkeen
(throw) into the hillslope
To throw away.


English translation
Sobering up, as in the sense of not drinking alcoholic beverages for a week or a month.
nousta väärällä jalalla
to rise/get up from the bed with the wrong foot
To be very grumpy first thing in the morning when everything seems to go wrong. Similar to English "get up on the wrong side of the bed".


English translation
ojasta allikkoon
from the ditch to the duck pond
out of the frying pan into the fire, from one bad situation to another
oksat pois
the branches are off (the tree)
used to describe almost anything (mostly anger) in excessive quantity. also used in conjunction with the subject of immediate action
olla hukassa
be in a 'loss'; also, hukka means "wolf"
Being lost, missing, in despair, perished.
olis kirveellä töitä
there would be work for an axe
Something should be corrected, possibly with quite harsh means.
oma lehmä ojassa
with one's own cow in the ditch
Having a personal interest or investment in the matter.
(maksaa) oppirahat
(pay the) learning costs
Learn a lesson the hard way
otti ohraleipä / olkileipä
it took a barley bread / straw bread (slightly ungrammatical). After losing the rye harvest, one had to sow barley, an inferior crop, before the winter
To encounter severe problems.


English translation
panna tikkua ristiin
cross two matches
To perform even the most minimal effort. Cf. English "lift a finger".
have the ass open
No money.
(kiivetä) perse edellä puuhun
(to climb) into a tree arse first
To do something in a needlessly complicated way, failing to see an easier way
perseet olalla
to carry one's buttocks on one's shoulders
to be really drunk
peukalo keskellä kämmentä
with one's thumb in the middle of one's palm
Very bad at doing something, usually manual labour. Cf. English "All Thumbs".
pieniin päin
towards small ones
in resin
A crush on someone
pilvin pimein
with dark clouds
A huge (often excessive) amount of something, possibly from the concept of gathering dark clouds covering the sky.
Porvoon mitalla
with Porvoo measure
More than asked for
potkaista tyhjää
to kick empty space
To die.
suit ghost
A person who insists on being sharply and formally dressed, but who appears to do little, if any, actual work. Almost always used of men, but sometimes of women too.
puurot ja vellit sekaisin
confusing normal (solid) porridge and a more liquid form of porridge
Confusing two unrelated things, either for each other, or as relating to each other. Cf. comparing apples and oranges.
päin seiniä / puuta / honkia / ...
against the walls / tree / dead pines / ...
Completely wrong.


English translation
rikkana rokassa
as a piece of trash in the broth
As the bad exception in an otherwise good company.
ruista ranteessa
rye in one's wrist
Physically strong.
rysän päältä
from the top of a large fish trap
Caught straight from doing a no-good thing. Cf. English "caught red-handed". The American TV program "Cheaters" is translated to "Rysän päältä" in Finland


English translation
(viedä) saunan taa(kse)
(take) behind the sauna
"To put off/execute". Due to fire hazard, saunas were built at a distance from the house, and what was or happened behind the sauna was out of sight, "behind the backyard". Normally, there was a "tunkio" or a cargabe pile behind the sauna, and when e.g. a sick or injured horse or dog needed to be put off, it was taken behind the sauna for the job.
soittaa suutaan
to play one's mouth (as a musical instrument)
To boast, or to speak provocatively.
soitellen sotaan
playing an instrument when going to the war
To be unprepared, whether it is a task at hand or one is going somewhere without thinking what is needed to take along.
sokerina pohjalla
as the sugar on the bottom
As a final bonus, benefit or gift


English translation
tulevana vuonna tuohikuussa
in a coming year, in the birch bark month
At an indeterminate point in the future, possibly never. "Tuohikuu" is a fictional month but sounds like the rural-oriented Finnish names for the 12 months.
tuohikuussa pukinpäivänä
in the birch bark month on the day of the goat
Same as above.
tulla kuin havumajaan
to come as if coming into a hut made of tree needles
To enter a house easily, often against the wishes of the house's owner
tumput suorina
with one's mittens straight
Not doing anything, with an implication that one should be doing something.
tykätä kyttyrää
to like + some hump (the unusual grammar is hard to translate)
To dislike. Implies vindictiveness. Often juxtaposed with the antonym.


English translation
ulkona/pihalla kuin lumiukko
out like a snowman
Not to know anything about the a given thing and thus be stunned, or to say things that are not relevant to the thing.


English translation
in a phase (backformation from asking "in which phase?")
Not yet ready or finished, with an implication of not knowing when it will be. Originally army slang.
vaikka lampaat söisi
for sheep to eat
A great number or amount, especially one that will stay great after partaken of.
vetää herne nenään
pull a pea up one's nose
To be provoked.
vetää hirsiä
to pull cabers / to pull logs
To sleep.
vetää jojoon/ kaulakiikkuun
to put in a yo-yo/ throat-swing
To execute by hanging. Almost always used of suicide.
vetää turpaan
(sudden action) to the muzzle
To beat someone, especially punch in the face. The verb vetää is a verb with diverse, disparate meanings, used to indicate a sudden jerk or a single, quick movement.
vintti pimeni
the attic blacked out
Someone fainted
vuonna miekka ja kypärä/kivi/kilpi
in the year of sword and helmet/stone/shield
Very long time ago.
vuonna yks ja kaks
in the year one and two
Very long time ago.
vuonna käpy ja nakki
in the year of cone and wiener
Very long time ago
vääntää rautalangasta
to twist from wire
To explain with very simple terms.


English translation
yhdeksän hyvää ja kahdeksan kaunista
nine good things and eight beautiful things
Lots of good-sounding promises, with an implication they are unlikely to be kept.
yritys hyvä kymmenen
good attempt ten (slightly ungrammatical)
Good, but failed, attempt.


English translation
äitinsä näköinen
looks like one's mother
Not looking good at all. Comes from an allegation of being the son of a whore.


English translation
(seisoa kuin) Ö aapisen laidassa
(to stand like) the letter Ö (the last letter of the Finnish alphabet) in the corner of the spelling book
Not having a clue, being useless.

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