Tuesday, June 23, 2009

When Pancakes Aren't

According to my girlfriend, who is from Finland - the Suomi (Finnish) equivalent for 'pancake' is Pannukakku. Now like me, you might think that means your standard winter evening delicacy with cinnamon sugar or syrup and maybe a dash of lemon. 

I couldn't've been more wrong.

Apparently 'pannukakku' is actually something different. It is a cake, yes - but completely different. It is also called an "oven pancake" because yes - you bake it inside an oven, has different ingredients and turns out thicker and puffier, almost like what we would call flapjacks.

The type more familiar to us Earthlings is the one you do in a pan on the stove, occasionally flipping them while hoping they don't land in the dog.

No, the equivalent to what we would call a "pancake" is actually called "lätty" (pronounced laatoo) - which actually means something like "splat".

On the subject of 'splat' (which left me rolling accross the floor btw) - I often wonder that if people who speak foreign languages pronounce something 'laatoo' why don't they actually spell it that way? I mean if a 'y' isn't pronounced like a 'y' - then why use it? No really, is it so that they can get together and laugh at idiot foreigners like me? Isn't that sort of like asking somebody looking for directions to the local sports stadium if they know the 711 on 5th avenue and when they say 'yes', tell them 'well, it's nowhere near there'?

I am trying very hard to get to grips with Suomi. Trouble is, it keeps getting a grip on me instead, giving me a terrible crick in the neck from all the choke holds. It is unlike any other language I have ever encountered before. I speak fluent Afrikaans, which is a sort of bastardized evolution of Dutch and therefore a Germanic language of the same family as German, Swedish, Flemish and Icelandic. I have learned some German and if my girlfriend speaks a little Swedish I often get it - and when something Afrikaans comes along (spoken or written) she often gets that as well. But Finnish - eish! Like other languages, it has all sorts of dots and things that alter their pronunciation, but there the similarity ends. They don't use the Nordic 'O' that has been crossed out and looks like this: ø, for example. This is exactly what I am talking about - why put an 'O' there if you are going to cross it out??

Finnish is another animal altogether. It is an ancient language all on its own. Its closest living relative is an old aunt called Estonian and I suppose their relationship could be compared to Dos and Unix. They use similar sounding words, but on closer inspection they mean something completely different. My other half tells me that even Finns think it would be easier to learn traditional Chinese than Suomi! No wonder scandinavians have such a reputation for drinking!

Alternate spellings aside, in their defence - I think that it could be something kind of like in English where you could spell the word 'fish' as 'ghoti' - or "Flemmish" as "Phlegmiti" - and then get called a chop by your mates for your efforts.

Nevertheless I will be trying very hard to at least have a basic conversation with my future inlaws in their own language when I meet them eventually (At this rate I will never get to Finland).

So on the next cold snappy winter evening I will look at my wonderful if somewhat goofy girlfriend and say to her: "Looks like a perfect evening for some 'splat', don't you think, honey?"

Ok folks, quit whining - I'm Finnished.


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