Sisu, Sauna, Sibelius and…

What is it?

In a nutshell, sahti is a type of Finnish strong beer with a long history and traditional preparation methods. Its main ingredients are water, malted barley and other malts. The use of juniper is also notable: its twigs and berries can be used for flavour and aroma. Sometimes hops are used. The beverage is typically top-fermented using baker’s yeast, then cold-conditioned for at least one week, after which the serving of this fresh, living product can begin.

Sahti appears thick and cloudy and its colour varies from pale as a straw to dark as chocolate. The beer tastes slightly sweet and often has an aroma resembling banana, as in weizenbier. Due to the lack of additional carbonation, the mouthfeel is smooth, which makes sahti highly drinkable. At 6–12% ABV, this ethnobeer will put a smile on your face. Its specific characters are certified by the EU (the certification application is available online here).


What is so great about sahti?

As a fresh, unfiltered and unpasteurised product, sahti continues to evolve in the container like a cask ale, but its preparation process is unhurried and simple. The mash is typically a long step mash. Boiling the wort is rare, and many sahti makers prefer using the traditional wooden sahti brewing equipment. A wooden trough, into which juniper twigs are placed, is traditionally used for sieving the wort after mashing.

Despite the looks of a 5W-50 lubricant (often, right down to the plastic container), sahti goes down remarkably well as the little carbonation that is present in the drink is all produced naturally as a by-product of fermentation by the feisty baker’s yeast – another trait resembling real ale.

The beer probably dates back thousands of years and has traditionally been an essential ingredient in weddings and funerals and after harvests. The craft of sahti preparation is most stout in the regions of Kanta-Häme, Päijät-Häme and Pohjois-Satakunta where the tradition keeps on fermenting through the enthusiasm of local associations, a few commercial microbreweries, and of course, home brewers.


What is not so great about sahti?

It can be hard to find. So far, perhaps the most reliable source to my knowledge is the Tuulonen shopping centre, where Lammin Sahti can be purchased. Luckily, you can always make it yourself.


How to make sahti?

This simple “Kitchen sahti” recipe is an adaptation from a Finnish book on the subject called Sahti – Elävä muinaisolut.

For 5–6 l of sahti, you will need approximately 3 kg sahti malt, which is basically pilsner malt mixed with a hint of darker malt. You can replace approximately 5–10% of the total grain bill with malted rye, or as I did, with 100 g of malt extract which largely consists of rye. Juniper twigs and berries can also be used.

Heat up 6.6 l of strike water in a large kettle, add the grains, up to 1 dl of juniper berries and a small juniper twig. Step mash with 45-minute rests at 60, 70 and 80° C respectively. If you want to be more traditional, you can take even more time, starting at lower temperatures and adding the water gradually into the mash. Once done mashing, recirculate half of the wort through your sieving system, preferably through a couple of added juniper twigs to separate the wort and the grit. Boil 3–4 litres of water for sparging. Alternatively, steep juniper twigs and use that water for sparging. Sparge, and lauter the wort into the fermentation vessel to collect approximately 6 litres of wort.

Cool the wort to approximately 20° C and aerate it by collecting and pouring back multiple scoops of wort into the fermenter using a sanitised scoop. Mix 6 g of baker’s yeast with 1 dl of cool sterilised water in a sanitised glass. Pitch this creamy blend into the wort and shake the vessel.

Ferment at 18–23° C for approximately two days. At the end of the primary fermentation, transfer into a secondary container or containers for cold-conditioning at 0–10° C for at least 10 days. After that, the flavour keeps on developing but you may start having pints to determine when your sahti is at its peak. It is advisable, however, to consume the batch within a month from its brewing day.


What is a conceptual metaphor?

What motivates expressions such as “time is money”?

What motivates expressions such as “time is money”?

Conceptual metaphor refers to the human ability to understand one domain using another, usually more familiar domain. The conceptual metaphor theory sheds light upon why certain vocabulary is preferred over other in certain contexts, and it is a method for understanding both conventional and figurative expressions. Furthermore, it is a method for understanding how schemas relate to one another in a given culture or for a group of people or individual. Therefore, conceptual metaphors form the infrastructure of our thinking and communication. This ability may very well be what enables symbolism in the first place.


Here is an example: “I spent all my time searching for my inspiration but got nowhere.”

One common conceptual metaphor behind this utterance is understanding TIME AS RESOURCE. Therefore, it can be spent, wasted and saved. The concept of time is so abstract that, in order to understand and talk about it, we need a more tangible concept that is more basic to our experience. The same conceptual metaphor also motivates  expressions that we identify as figurative more easily, such as time is money.


In the example sentence, another conceptual metaphor motivates the expression got nowhere. It is the tendency to understand PROGRESS AS MOVEMENT, usually forward. This metaphor is realized when referring to steps, standstills and dead ends in a process or when you exclaim that you are on a roll.


The cognitive faculty behind such utterances enables us to form mappings between elements in different schemas. In the conceptual metaphor TIME AS RESOURCE, the person experiencing time maps onto the owner of a resource and time corresponds to the quantifiable resource. The mappings are selective, which means that several properties of time, such as relativity to the individual and place, do not have a counterpart in this metaphor. In turn, the general target concept of resource allows for elaborating the metaphor depending on the context by selecting a specific type of resource, such as money, securities, a forest or a bowl of cereal. Any target concept utilized for understanding the source concept offers its unique possibilities for selective mappings and new perspectives. This is why conceptual metaphor is a device for rhetoric and humour — and ultimately a mechanism of thinking and imagination.


What is  the most remarkable aspect of this is that novel figurative utterances motivated by a conceptual metaphor can become so entrenched in language that, over time, the expressions are no longer considered as figurative but rather as literal. As expressions go through this process, they can be understood as tired, sleepy, buried and, finally, dead. It is this process that gives us a hint of how language can change the world. For an example, look up a mouse and a cartwheel in a dictionary, and you will probably find that the words are currently considered as polysemous.


For further information on the subject, the must-read book to start from is Metaphors We Live By written by George Lakoff and Mark Johnsson. Another book, which builds on the theory, is The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities by Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner. It introduces a model for understanding many types of mappings, even ones where the one-way conceptual metaphor model falls short.

Facing the Groundhog’s Shadow — An Interpretation of Individuation in the Film Groundhog Day

A groundhog contemplating the concept of the shadow in analytic psychology.


In addition to being a holiday celebrated in the United States and Canada on the 2nd of February, Groundhog Day is a motion picture from 1993 written by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis that really manages to say something essential about the human mind and life with both hilarious and uplifting effects. The story features Phil (Bill Murray), an egocentric TV weather reporter, who travels to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the Groundhog Day prediction of the arrival of spring. The holiday tradition in the town involves observing a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil emerging from its burrow and concluding whether spring will come early based on whether it is sunny enough for the groundhog to see its shadow.

While on what Phil regards as the most futile assignment ever, a blizzard blocks any attempt to escape from the provinces, and Phil with his colleagues — producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott) — are forced to stay for another night in the town. But it turns out no vacation. To Phil’s surprise, the Groundhog Day festivities are also held the next day, and the day after that. In fact, everything happens over and over again exactly as it did the previous day without anybody else noticing the absurdity. He finds himself stuck in a time and place that he absolutely loathes.


Although the movie has received a lot of critical acclaim, and rightfully so, I wanted to write about the central allegory of the story that is funny, touching and inspiring. The film stands as a great example of  individuation, a central concept in analytic psychology, which originated from the ideas of Carl Jung. Individuation is the process of self-realisation, in which the conscious is integrated with the unconscious. Punxsutawney Phil and his shadow are the key. As the question that lies at the heart of the spring-forecasting holiday is “will Phil see his shadow?”, the question for Phil, the cheeky weather anchor, is essentially the same. According to Jung, the encounter with the shadow (undesirable aspects of the personality) is a significant stepping stone on the path of individuation. As underlined by Phil’s constant witty remarks and the day that literally repeats itself, he feels stuck in life and projects his negativity upon others, albeit through humour. He is playing out his shadow but has not become aware of it yet. Therefore, he experiences life as a mundane grind and he must figure out how to break the cycle and find a sense of purpose in life.


First, Phil exploits his perfect foresight to pursue worldly motives, such as indulging in food, stealing money and getting laid. Without having to care about the consequences, he starts living in a fantasy in which he gets to sooth the ego with whatever pops up from the unconscious. Phil’s ego suffers a blow, however, by a series of failures to score with Rita. At this stage, he is unable to differentiate between the other person and his inner object of desire. Depression ensues, and Phil attempts suicide with every method available, and technically succeeds with every attempt — only to wake up each time to the same radio morning show blasting I Got You Babe from the alarm clock radio at the hotel room.

At the rock bottom, realising his inability to find happiness in the outside world, he is faced with his shadow, so to speak. It is only then when Phil begins to reconsider his inner motives and his ego-driven approach to the day that he thought he had become all too familiar with (i.e. life). He begins to view each encounter over the looping day from the other persons’ perspective and to develop his anima. The anima, in Jung’s view, is the totality of a man’s unconscious feminine psychological qualities (the animus being the masculine inner personality of a woman). Phil begins to see possibilities for self-improvement around him, and the day receives some much-needed variety through the facilitation of his individuation. He now channels his mental energy to and uses his knowledge gained through the iterations of the day (figuratively, life experience) for practicing the arts and helping others.

It is through this selfless service that Phil ultimately makes tremendous progress and learns how to come to terms with his surroundings and himself. The motif of anima development is further realised at the end of the movie: Rita wins Phil for herself in a bachelor auction for $ 339.88, which is a blunt but concrete way of indicating his improvement. Later, he skilfully sculpts a bust out of ice portraying Rita, which can be seen as a symbol representing the feminine archetype in Phil’s unconscious. Most importantly, his psychic integration finally breaks the spell and enables the next day to begin.


So there you have my concise interpretation of what the movie is about. Archetypes are the symbol-producing contents of the collective unconscious, and as such, are expressed in mythologies around the world and give rise to the imagery and themes across art forms. This explains recurrent motifs in the arts and the ability of certain works of art to resonate so well with the audience.

You are welcome to share your take on the topics of this post in the comments.


Further reading:

Groundhog Day entry in the Internet Movie Database.

Wikipedia entry about the holiday Groundhog Day.

Jung, C. G. 1968. Man and His Symbols. New York: Dell Publishing.

Carl Jung Resources.

A benign case of tonttu

As translators often like to get sucked into Wikipedia or other world-knowledge-accumulating online resources, they do not need a hefty reason for it. The time of the year will do. And as we all know, the darkest time of the year on the northern hemisphere brings along a chance to catch a glimpse of Santa’s minions, the Christmas elves. And, boy, do these guys have an interesting history! The following is a summary of my brief dip, turned several hours, into the Nordic terminology of the stalking yet helpful, tiny yet powerful bearded creatures, and to the concept of what is now known as Santa Claus.


For a long time, the folks in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland have lived with little fellows coined tomte, nisse and tonttu. Back in the day, these guys used to inhabit farms with the farmers and keep an eye on the farm dwellers’ behaviour. The hobs displayed temperament and powers sufficient to guard the farm workers’ work ethics. The Swedish name tomte is allegedly derived from tomt, a plot of land. Why? The gnome of the farm was apparently seen as an embodiment of the spirit of the original farmer who had cleared the plot. With the equivalent Finnish words being tonttu and tontti, the Swedish motivation for the term also makes perfect sense to Finns.

As for nisse, encountered in Denmark and Norway, it is an interesting question whether the name has its roots in nixie, a shape-shifting water spirit (näkki in Finnish). The term nisse is also in use in Finnish. In the Christmas song Nissen polkka, the term most likely refers to a farm hob. Kielitoimiston sanakirja (The Dictionary of the Finnish Language Office) includes two definitions for nisse: a young assistant waiter in a restaurant or a gingerbread man.


Later, brownies took over the Christmas gift delivery duties in households, and — fused with the English 16th-century Father Christmas tradition that swept over the Nordic Countries — yielded the job titles jultomte, julenisse and joulutonttu. Due to this blending, the Swedish term jultomte appears to be reserved for Santa Claus, while the members of his staff go by the name tomtenisse. The new distributor of presents eventually replaced the Yule Goat, which was known as julbock in Sweden and must have done a pretty bad job, as a giant straw figure of a goat, erected on the first Sunday of Advent, is burned down in Gävle every year. In Finnish, a mirroring term joulupukki is still in use, but it refers to Santa Claus himself.

Ho ho ho!


Speaking of gift giving — Santa Claus, elves and goats were preceded by Saint Nicholas, a 4th-century Greek bishop living in the part of the Roman Empire which is now known as Anatolia, the Asian part of Turkey. He became known for his knack for spreading joy in parcels large and small. He is merited as the prototype after which Sinterklaas and, ultimately, the present-day Santa were modelled.

The concept of this enlightened Christmas chap is a remarkable example of conceptual blending that integrates layers of several cultures, traditions and terms, all contributing new properties to the mix — a mix that continues to confuse adults and fool children. This whirlpool of a concept that is Santa Claus keeps on absorbing new structure as people elaborate on the concept. St. Nicholas probably never saw a reindeer in his life and farm brownies were allegedly only under a metre tall, but we have no problem with Santa arriving on a flying sled and entering through the chimney in some cultures — despite his waistline now equalling the length of a few elves.


It should be stressed that the collection of terms and traditions covered in this piece of bloggery is by no means exhaustive and that the sources referred to during its drafting were Wikipedia and Kielitoimiston sanakirja (on-line version). For more on conceptual blending, see The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities by Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner (2002).

If you wish to share your knowledge related to these Christmas traditions in your native country, feel free to leave a comment. Regardless of whether you believe in Santa Claus or not, have a merry Christmastide, or happy holidays, as they say.

Four things that are good to know about the Finnish language

Whether you are managing a translation project, taking your first steps in learning the language or trying to pronounce Helsingin kaupunginmuseo, it is good to know a few basic aspects that characterise the Finnish language, especially in contrast with the Romanic and Germanic languages.

  1. Finnish is a synthetic language

Finnish mostly prefers deriving words and adding case endings (there are 15 to choose from) instead of articles and prepositions. This leads to long words, especially in official written communication. It also leads to false QA errors when a CAT tool encounters inflected forms of a word, because they do not correspond to the glossary term often provided in the nominative case. For example – lippu (ticket), lippua (ticket[partitive]).

  1. No genders

This applies both to the third person singular pronoun (hän can be used to refer to a woman or a man) and to nouns in general. Thus, anyone writing in Finnish avoids the stress of choosing the correct article but  needs to convey the familiarity or specificity of nouns to the reader by other means. Sometimes, this is ignored by native writers, and the reader is required to interpret quite a lot from the context, compared to more analytic languages. This can also cause headaches for anybody translating from Finnish.

  1. One sound per letter

There is very little variation in how phonemes are represented in written Finnish, which makes pronunciation fairly easy to learn. With only a few exceptions to memorise, the orthography of most words can also be predicted quite straightforwardly. As an example of such an exception, the letter ‘n’ marks the [ŋ] sound if it is followed by the letter ‘g’ but is usually pronounced as an [n] – for instance in kaupunki and kaupungin (‘a city’ and ‘a city’s’).

  1. Known and new information are signalled by word order

As the subject and object are indicated using appropriate case endings, word order has the function of indicating which part of a sentence is old and which is novel information. In English, for example, the subject and object of the sentence ‘dog ate the ball’ can be switched by changing the word order to ‘ball ate the dog’. However, in a Finnish rendering of the statement,  ‘koira söi pallon’, the same manoeuvre makes the ball the topic, and the intention of the sentence seems to change into clarifying who was it that ate the ball: ‘pallon söi koira’.