Weird Finnish Phrases that Make No Sense in English

Finnish is quite a unique language with only 5 million people speaking it as a mother tongue. The language has many funny sayings that turn out to be hilarious when translated directly to English! Here are a few weird Finnish phrases and the story behind them.

Matti kukkarossa – Matt in the wallet

Nobody can fit in a wallet – except Matti. Matti visits your wallet when you run out of money.

But who is this Matt? Why is it not Steven or John? And what is he doing in the wallet? Many questions arise when you start analyzing the phrase.

There are two different explanations for the origin of the saying. The first one comes from the Bible. Matt may refer to Matthew and the saying to the New Testament. The Gospel of Matthew 28:20 says “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Thus, Matt hangs around even when everything ends. He will stay in the wallet even after all the money is gone.

Matt is also associated with the checkmate situation. The origin of check mate comes from Persian language “shah mat”, the king is dead. And indeed, you need money to live. Game is over if you ran out of capital in life.

Another way to describe that you do not have money is to be “persaukinen”, which translates to be “butt wide open”. Let’s not go into details…

Mukiinmenevä – Mug-going

This phrase is usually used in a positive context. If something is suitable for its purpose, it will go to a mug, accordingly mug-going. But wait. What has a container for drinks to do with one’s applicability?

In fact, the mug has nothing to do with it. The origin comes from a Finnish word muka, which is a body for many words meaning something is suitable or fits in. The word reminds of the word mug, muki. During the years, the language has developed, and the word has lost it’s real meaning in people’s minds and became connected to the drinking mug.

printing press letters

Vispilänkauppa – Whisk trade

This saying is used when two young people start to date. It describes especially the beginning phase of a relationship, when the affair is not settled. The whisk is the important part here – but we are not talking about the kitchen appliance you bought from a department store.

The origin comes from the history, when young people went to the forest to pick up twigs for whisks. Time spent together in the woods often led to a relationship, which established a phrase to describe two people falling in love with each other.

Antaa rukkaset – Give leather mittens

This is one of the weird Finnish phrases that has an interesting back story. If you get rejected in love, the other person gives you leather mittens. Even though you would have use of leather mittens in Finland during winter time, the meaning is only metaphoric. There is no solid proof that there were a custom of giving mittens in Finland at the time of rejection.

Instead, the Germanic nations had a habit of giving a pair of gloves when they were doing agreements in the Middle Ages. If the gloves were returned, it meant that the deal was turned down.

leather gloves

Are you interested to learn more about Finland? Find out the top 5 things in which Finland ranks the best. Or are you a foodie? Check out some weird-looking Finnish foods! Are you planning a visit to Finland? Then you should read our bucket list for Finland!

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