Helsinki slang

Helsinki slang

Helsinki slang or slangi is a local variation of the Finnish language mainly used in the capital Helsinki.

Helsinki slang is based on colloquial Finnish ("puhekieli", see spoken Finnish). It's characterized by a large amount of words borrowed from originally Swedish, German and Russian, nowadays chiefly English, etymologies replacing common everyday nouns, verbs and adjectives.

The borrowed words may violate phonological rules of the Finnish language, such as vowel harmony. They also include phonemes /b/, /d/ and /g/ and consonant clusters such as /sn/ rarely found in other dialects. Yet the words remain indisputably Finnish, incorporating Finnish grammar and mostly obeying Finnish phonotactics. Some rather arbitrary, but creative and distinctly Finnish expressive constructions are often used, e.g. "päräyttävä".

Furthermore, arbitrary modifications are found — these make the resulting slang words alien both to the speakers of regular Finnish and the borrowing language. For example, Finland-Swedish (Sipoo dialect) "burk" "cranky" is modified into "spurgu" "wino", where the added 's' is arbitrary, as is the voicing change of 'k' to 'g'. Derivation of "fillari" from "velociped" is even more convoluted: "velociped" in the Swedish language game fikonspråk is "filociped-vekon", which became "filusari" and further "fillari" — only the 'l' is etymologically original. In fact, the newer abbreviation of "fillari" to "fiude" loses even the 'l'. Helsinki slang dates back to the late 19th century, when Helsinki was about 50% Swedish-speaking and the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland of Imperial Russia. For these reasons, older slang words come from the three languages Finnish, Swedish and Russian — about 75–80% of "old slang" words have Swedish etymologies, 5% Russian and the rest Finnish. The slang was widely used especially in working class areas before the Winter War, but it only became really popular in the 1950s among young men who wanted to rebel against their parents and impress young women. Today, Helsinki slang has all but lost its "tough guy" image, and thanks to a recent trend of media portrayal in good light and various slang books, it has become something of a cultural phenomenon and research interest.

Although like any local variation, Helsinki slang constantly evolves, most adult speakers of Helsinki slang still consider the 1950s version the "real" slang. By far the most of the slang words right up to the 1980s come from Swedish and Russian. Since the 1990s, because of globalisation and the prominence of the Internet, new slang words have usually come from English, but these are considered neologisms at best and sucking-up to Americans at worst, by adult speakers who grew up with 1950s-style slang. Nevertheless, even if words are loaned, they are modified to conform to the phonotactics of the language, though as noted, the phonotactics are slightly different from typical colloquial Finnish.

Helsinki slang is not to be confused with Finglish, which is a completely different phenomenon, and does not originate in Helsinki.

Helsinkians themselves never refer to their slang as "Helsinki slang" but instead as "stadin slangi". "Stadi" is a slang word, coming from the Swedish "stad" (city), so taken literally, the name would mean "slang of the city", but Helsinkians have a steadfast opinion that only Helsinki may be called "stadi", the other cities are referred to by the normal Finnish word for "city", "kaupunki". In addition, the only name Helsinkians use to refer to Helsinki itself is "stadi". Calling the city by its more obvious colloquial form, "Hesa", is taken as sign of non-Helsinkian, even rural, background. As a tardy counterstrike, the natives of the city Espoo, the immediate western neighbour of Helsinki, colloquially refer to Helsinki as "Kaupunki".

Helsinki slang is a vivid phenomenon, and while many current loan words come from English, it is likely that in the future the Russian and Estonian influence, due to immigration, will again be remarkable.Fact|date=February 2007 As many of the children of the Somali immigrants who settled in Helsinki in the early 1990s are now in their teens and early adulthood, certain Somali loan words have also found their way into the Helsinki slang vocabulary.Fact|date=February 2007

Distinctive marks

Helsinki slang originally began as a pidgin language of Finnish, Swedish and Russian. During the rapid growth period in the late 19th century Helsinki was swollen with Finnish-, Swedish- and Russian-speaking immigrants, who seldom understood each other. The original slang was a lingua franca which enabled people, especially children, to intercommunicate and be understood. It basically had Finnish grammar with heavy influence of Swedish and Russian vocabulary.

When the children grew up, they incorporated certain aspects of pronunciation and linguistic in their speech. Early slang was expressively a male phenomenon: it was inherited from fathers to sons. Since World War II, girls and women have picked slang just as well in their speech, and today there is no gender difference or distinction between the speakers. Slang is most vivid in those districts where children and youth are most abundant: the youth keep it living.

Some distinctive aspects in Helsinki slang are:
* Very swift pace of pronunciation and speech
* The voiced consonants IPA|/b d ɡ/, which are rare in Standard Finnish, are abundant: budjaa (to dwell), brakaa (to break), dorka (dork), duuni (work), gimma (girl), goisaa (to sleep). Many speakers, though, use several of these words with voiceless IPA|/p t k/: prakaa, kimma, koisaa.
* Consonant clusters in the beginning of words, which appear natively only on south-western Finnish dialects, are commonplace, like Stadi (Helsinki), glesa (sick), skeglu (knife), flinda (bottle)
* Shortened or diminutive forms of words. Common noun endings used include "-is" (fleggis 'open fire', kondis 'condition'), "-ari" (Hesari 'the street Helsinginkatu' or 'the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat', snagari 'sausage stand') and "-de" (krunde and klande 'heads and tails' (< Standard Finnish "kruuna" and "klaava" 'ibid.'))
* Slang and foreign word roots do not conform to vowel harmony, although their suffixes do (Sörkka, "Sörkasta" pro Sörkkä, Sörkästä < Sörnäinen)ref|1, Tölika pro "Tölikä"' < Töölö, byysat pro "byysät" (trousers)). This does not affect native Finnish words.
** With some speakers this goes even further; Standard Finnish IPA|/æ/ and IPA|/ɑ/ appear to be merging as IPA|/a/, a new neutral vowel. Before the modern period, this change has happened in Estonian Fact|date=September 2008 and other southern Finnic languages.
* Surplus S appearing in beginning of words, forming consonant clusters: stoge (train), skoude (policeman)
* Ceceo or lisp on IPA|/s/, pronouncing it as a sharp, dental IPA|/s̪/, or even IPA|/θ/ as in English "thing". This is considered an effeminate feature, but appears sometimes also on males' speech.

Usage and examples

Slang words in Helsinki slang obey normal Finnish grammar, regardless of their etymology. However, Helsinki slang is always both spoken and written as colloquial Finnish, never as properly grammatical "kirjakieli" (see spoken Finnish). For example, "can you put that in order?" is "voitsä duunaa ton kondiksee?" in Helsinki slang, where "duunaa" (to do, to make) and "kondis" (condition, order, working) are slang words. Trying to write the sentence in "properly grammatical" form, as *"voitko (sinä) duunata tuon kondikseen?", would be erroneous.

Due to its pidgin origins and nature, Helsinki slang has also been used by the Swedish speaking minority in Helsinki, often spoken in the same manner and mixing it into the Swedish language. The earlier example "can you put that in order?" would be "kan du duuna dendä' kondiksee?" when spoken by a Swedish speaking Finn. This kind of mixing nowadays also extends to Finnish-Swedish bilingual speakers in the metropolitan area who do not speak Helsinki slang proper, and is then known as 'grani-speak', the name deriving from the municipality of Kauniainen ("Grankulla" in Swedish - colloquially known as "Grani" both in Finnish and Swedish) with a larger proportion of Swedish speakers than in the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa.)

Some literary works in Helsinki slang can contain long sentences with a large density of slang words. Examples include "Hei sporakuski, stikkaa dörtsi posee, tääl on galsa blosis, bonjaatsä?" (meaning "Hey, tram driver, close the door, it's a cold wind in here, you understand?", from the Viivi & Wagner comicsFact|date=June 2007) and ""Kelaa, snadi jeesaaja, kui iisii täl ois stedaa" (meaning "Think, little helper, how easy it would be to clean with this", from Sami Garam's slang version of Donald Duck). (Helsinki slang words are shown in bold, the rest are "generic colloquial" Finnish).


* Whether "Sörkka" or "Sörkkä" is the true form of the name has been the subject of interminable and quite heated debate in the press, in pubs, in sauna dressing rooms as well as online. Anecdotes, personal experience, informal polls, and old song lyrics are cited as evidence for one side or the other. "Sörkka", violating vowel harmony, has a more nonstandard appearance that suggests authenticity, but equally well it may be the result of hypercorrection. On the other hand, "Sörkkä" sounds like "Sörkka" as a naive non-native speaker would say it. Some attempt a compromise, saying that one form should be used of the place and the other of the prison situated there, while some say one is merely more recent than the other. The question remains unresolved and it may well be that there is no answer; authoritative institutions such as the slang dictionary and the Helsinki City Museum take a neutral stand. In the meantime, outsiders should be aware that using either form is likely to invite protest or correction from the opposing camp. It is often claimed "Sörkka" refers to the district and "Sörkkä" to the Helsinki Central Prison located there.

External links

* []
* [ Stadin Slangi ry]
* [ Journey Planner (Reissugaidi) for Helsinki in Slangi]

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