Monday, March 28, 2011

Finnish words for solid H2O (an introduction)

Finland is a cold country. Well, not quite as cold as continental Canada or Siberia but quite cold anyway. This winter, the temperatures have been below normal and snow entered the country early, in November, like it just wanted to remind people of the winters in 1940s or the latest cold winter of 1986-7.

Hence there are adult finnish people who have not seen winters like this one.

Finnish is a somewhat synthetic language and it allows the use of compound nouns, so it is not surprising that finnish and its dialects have quite a lot of words describing the solid forms of H20. In fact these are way more than for the liquid and gaseous H2O. Some of these are commonly used also in weather forecasts so some clarification may be needed.

Big hat tip for, for reminding of the various words I've not used since 1980s.

Actually using these is pretty intuitive since many of these relate to weather attributes or skiing conditions. I've tried to formalize some of these in the following easy 14 categories (still very much unfinished and possibly somewhat inaccurate and in need of a revision), as I'm from the southwest, this dialect is overtly represented...:

general word for snow: lumi
1. progression of snow on ground during winter: ensilumi (first snow) -> siite (little snow = under 2-4 cm) -> lunta maassa (snow on ground, but not quite enough for good skiing = under 10 cm) -> kunnon talvi (winter proper, enough snow/ice for wintry activities) -> hanki (when the general snow depth is highest (feb-early march) -> temperature above 0 -> suoja -> below 0 -> suhju or hölsä (or a free swear word)(depending on the lenght the suoja weather...) -> above zero -> sohjo -> loska (generally at least 5 cm))

hop over any of the middle ones if the winter isn't long or good enough...

other words for snow on the ground:
kinos: snow drift; a loose pile of snow, also of the piles made by people and their machines
nietos: thicker snow amidst hanki (windblown and hard)
polanne: a hard layer of compacted snow (almost turned to ice)
viti: freshly fallen powdery snow
nuoska: "snowballable" snow, usually formed when powdery snow melts a bit
pulveri: powder; very cold, fine, powdery snow
uppu: local spot with much more snow than apparent
valli: wall, blockage; a wall of snow (natural or manmade)
ajolumi: loose snow (wind may pick up)

2. The 10 intensities of snowfall from mildest to severest (SW-Finland) sataa hippeitä - haituvia - hahtuvia - lunta - tiheästi lunta -pyry - tuisku,myräkkä - lumimyrsky - Canadian blizzard

3. (SW): ice(increasing thickness of solid ice): riite(0-0,2cm) - riitta(0,2-0,5 cm) - jääpeite 0,5-1,5 cm -jääkansi 1,5-4 cm - teräsjää 4-90 cm

4. jää - ice (increasing brittleness): teräsjää > porejää (ice that maybe walked on with caution), kohvajää (partly formed from snow, hence foolhardy to cross though may succeed, walked on only if forced to) > puikkojää (very brittle, even experienced ice fishers may drown on this one > tikkujää(if one gets on this, going through it into water is certain)

other ice words:
ahto: pack-ice (broken & refrozen ice)
ahtauma: a formation of pack-ice
kide: ice crystal
railo: gap/lead in otherwise smooth ice
tökkö: ice with frost on top
komo: raised ice (f.e. the ice on river stuck on the shore leaving an air pocket under it)

I see this takes quite a long time, so the following categories have only samples.

5. the types of singular graupel/hail/sleet/snowflakes
there are about 11 of these... depending on the temperature in which they fall/the appearance/size

6. snow/ice not on the ground:
f.e. tykky: large chunks of snow, esp. when frozen onto trees, maybe divided to snow tykky and frost tykky
a couple more words for snow/ice on man-made structures not on the surface of water:
iljanne: a thin layer of snow atop ice
paanne: multi-layered ice (typically waves crash on top and freeze)
huurre: rime; granular frost (the white stuff in your freezer) also the stuff that comes from breathing at under -5
härmä: frost
kaljama: a thick layer of ice on the ground, lethal in the spring
kuura: hoarfrost; frozen dew
routa: ice in the ground

8. natural biotopes in winter:
f.e. kuhveikko: frozen (thickly enough to cross) bog or swamp
at least 6 more

9. some work related words:
avanto: a hole in ice leading to the water beneath
jotos: reindeer tracks in snow
rannio: a reindeer path in deep snow
judake: reindeer track in snow (Lapland)
kieppi: shallow snowcave for overnighting out

10. skiing related words:
keli: weather conditions on the ground level (not winter specific)
latu: a ski trail in snow
and about 7 more

11. other words
laviini: a small avalanche
lumivyöry: avalanche

12.winter and human health
13.transportation (other than skiing) in winter of the seasons (late autumn-early spring)

one peculiarity must yet be mentioned: the ordinary dry snow falling at temperatures between -5 and -13 degrees centigrade has had a different word in almost all significant dialects, I guess this is just to keep people talking...

(Disclaimer: One category of winter related words is lacking in finnish for the geography, that is 'the specific glacier words' as Finland has no glaciers to note.)