FINNS are proud of their linguistic identity, especially when it differs from the standard Finnish. Savo, in Eastern Finland, is a good example. People there are talkative, but in a confusing manner that gives no straight answers – and you might be confronted with speech and sounds similar to Finnish that leave you clueless.

My first attempts to understand a conversation were often commented on as such: “Don’t try to listen – we speak Savo now, not Finnish.” They take pride in disguising the words and changing the sounds so that perfectly simple sentences need detective work to be understood.

One slowly begins to grasp that there is no äiti, but äet, and you use a vasta (birch whisk) in the sauna and not vihta. You might hear about kolome koeroo instead of kolme koiraa (three dogs).

I was also taught to say elä kehtoo when the rest of Finns would say älä viitsi (please don’t). And if you’d wonder where a church is, do not use boring Missä kirkko sijaitsee? (Where is the church located?), but the rather brisk and descriptive Missee piruntorjuntapunkkerj on?

It is very “Savo” to use a sort of a code for simple things. To propose, a man may simply ask a vague question on how one would feel about lying in the same family grave someday (Miltee se tuntus vielä joskus muata meijän sukuhauvassa?).

Experience Savo at
Kuopio Housing Fair
16 July-15 August

This dialect offers plenty of opportunities to get admiration from the natives. Try a lovely phrase Elä hättääs’ läkähä, and watch their respect for your language skills grow. If you wish to listen to some wild Savo in a pop cultural context try metal band Verjnuarmu that performs exclusively in the dialect.

Katarzyna Herd