Archive for February 1st, 2010


#32 helmikuu – ‘pearl month’

032/365 helmikuu – ‘pearl month’, originally uploaded by rosipaw.

I came up with the idea of starting each new month with a theme photo. But what could it be? I know what, I will try to illustrate the name of the month in pictures. With Finnish this gets interesting, since our language simply is something else.

Finnish has nothing to do with other Scandinavian languages, such as our neighbouring Swedish or Norwegian. Finnish belongs to a group called the Finno-Ugric languages, and has its roots somewhere far in the east. Our closest linguistic relative is Estonian, just across the water from Helsinki, or then Hungarian in Central Europe. The structure of our language is very peculiar – e.g. no articles, no prepositions, but we boast 14 different cases, all distinct by different endings added to the end of words. Very complicated.

As for naming the months of the year, unlike most other western languages – including Estonian, insterestingly enough – who have adopted the Latin/Roman way of naming the months, we stubborn Finns have held onto the old names. Their meanings derive from the characteristics of each season or old agrarian references to seasonal farm activities.

So, January that just ended, is TAMMIKUU in Finnish.
tammi = originally the centre of a tree, axis or core (today, it denotes the oak tree)
kuu = month (actually ‘moon’, since a month would be ‘kuukausi’, literally ‘moon period’)
In other words, ‘tammikuu’ divides the winter into half, is half way through winter. I think my very first picture from New Year’s day, could easily illustrate this, even in hindsight.

February for us is HELMIKUU.
helmi = pearl
kuu = see above
The pearls are, of course, formed by snow and ice that, during this month, usually start thawing during the day and then freeze again at night, creating pearl-like formations on branches of trees and bushes.

To be continued in a month’s time…


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