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Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Finnish Conspiracy

Why do I love Finland? Because it was the birthplace of my mother's grandparents, but also because the Finnish language is pleasing to the ear, and yet delightfully incomprehensible. I have long suspected that the Finns pad words with extra syllables just to confound foreigners (according to the rules of Finnish grammar, words can be arbitrarily long). Now it seems that my suspicion has been confirmed.

Markku Uusipaavalniemi is a member of the Finnish curling team competing at Torino—nicknamed "U-15" for the number of letters in his last name.

One of the highlights at the 2000 World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, was when the crowd did the old spelling cheer: "Give me a U, give me a U, give me an S ... and so on through all 15 letters in his surname. When they finally finished and asked, "What does it spell?" the stadium went silent. On the meaning of his name, Uusipaavalniemi says "Uusi" means "new" and "niemi" means "peninsula," but the middle part doesn't mean anything. [Link]
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