The way I use my mouth

Tonight on TV saw another appearance of Sweden’s extremely fine movie reviewer Andrea Reuter. Now, funnily enough, many Swedes would not agree with me that this marvellous woman was attractive. This is not due to her bone structure, or her face, or her choice of clothes, or her daring 1930s hairstyle, but because of the simple fact that she has a Finnish accent.


Figure 1: Spot the funny accent

The Swedes have a BIG problem with Finnish accents. A HUGE problem. There is no belief that will unite Swedes more than this one – that the Finnish accent is ugly. For the life of me, I can’t understand why. To me, Finnish sounds like any other foreign accent – foreign. And when compared to the Swedish accent, it’s actually more interesting. It’s more unusual, a bit harsher and sexier and (nerd fact alert!) one of the languages that Tolkien based his Elvish tongues on.

But Swedes hate it. Normal, clear-minded, free-thinking people will happily try to convince me that there is an inherent ugliness in Finnish. It’s just NOT NICE, they will shout; it’s TOO FOREIGN, and not at all like Swedish which just sounds normal, completely devoid of any accent. Yeah, right…

When you dig deep enough into this, you discover that it has something to do with Finnish children’s programs that Swedes were exposed to in the 70s, or perhaps due to the substantial number of Finnish drunks rolling about Stockholm (substantially fewer in number, it should be noted, than the Swedish drunks), or due to the simple fact that Swedes, in this one area, are irretrievably biased and will never have their minds changed. We can all make fun of the Finnish accent as much as we like because it is ugly and crude and, well, that’s all there is to it.

Keep all of this in mind as you watch the marvellous Andrea strut her funky stuff on Swedish TV, and tell me which of the ladies in the room has the funniest accent. Because as far as I and the rest of the world outside Sweden can tell, it’s even money.

/ paddy

14 thoughts on “The way I use my mouth

  1. Firstly, thanks for your kind words about me. However, there is a big misunderstanding here. I do not have a Finnish accent, I speak the dialect of Swedish that is spoken in Finland, i.e. Swedish is my mother-tongue. There is a huge difference between how it sounds when Finnish people are speaking Swedish and when a Finlandswede is speaking Swedish. I´ve explained these things literally millions of times and I´m really, really tired right now (I´m in New York and it´s 3 o´clock in the morning), but you can do some research on your own and you´ll figure it out. And by the way, around 80% of the people I meet for the first time tell me that my dialect is their absolute favourite of all Swedish dialects. And all of them don´t wanna get into my pants, so I guess it´s a pretty popular dialect…

  2. Well then…it’s not often I publish a blog admiring somebody and have them not only comment the article, but also point out that I am wrong. This could be something to do with the fact that I placed a comment on Ms. Rueter’s blog and warned her that I had published a little article about her. The wacky things one does at 2:10 in the morning…

    So thanks to Andrea Reuter for replying to this missinformed Irishman. And it seems that all of this is more complicated that I first thought. My workmate T. confirmed that there is indeed a big population of native Swedish speakers living in Finland, who have Swedish as their mother tongue (as Andrea Reuter has), and a very particular accent, which is not the same as the Finnish accent. But to my ears, I’m afraid, they sound similar – even through they are not – and so my comments stand.

    Just to repeat: I have no problem at all with ANY accent from Finland, but have met many Swedes who do, and I think it’s wrong that they think so.

    Hey, maybe if I write a blog about Tori Amos, and send her a message, she can pop over here and comment it also..? Or maybe she’ll just call the CIA and set them on my ass.

    / paddy

  3. Paddy, if Swedish people happen to find the Finnish accent ugly surely that is their business. It is a personal thing. We either like the sound of something or we don’t.

    As it happens, I don’t like the accent Finnish people have when speaking in Swedish. I never have and never will although one of my best friends was a Swedish Finn. Nor do I like certain dialects spoken in Sweden or in England. I don’t like the northern Irish accent, especially not the Belfast one and I don’t even like the way some Stockholmers speak despite the fact that I was born and brought up there.

    So, there you are, it is very much a personal thing I think.

  4. Actually, it works both ways. Yes, many Swedes belittle and make fun of how Finnish people sound when speaking Swedish; but many Finnish people belittle and make fun of how Swedish people sound when they speak Finnish. In fact, growing up in a Finnish family, I was aware of the latter much before I realized that it works both ways.
    Vic the Finn, who prefers to speak English when in Sweden.

  5. Hi Paddy !

    I started the discussion “An Irishman writes about the Swedes´ dislike of Finnish” in this yahoo group for Finnish :

    My opinion is that Finnish really sounds very bad to Swedes and also to many other non-Finns. I happen to be a native speaker of Finnish. I do not see Swedes as arrogant because they do not like my mother tongue. They are just being honest about it.

    The yahoo discussion is quite good, very balanced. It would be great if you could join it. ( Registration is very easy! )

  6. My paternal grandmother was a Swedish-speaking Finn from Jakobstad in Ostrobothnia (western Finland). My mother used to drive my grandmother, myself, and an elderly man from Sweden to church every week. On the way to church, my grandmother and the Swede would chatter away in Swedish. Although I don’t speak Swedish (I never could get the vowels down properly), I always found it amusing how the Swede sounded compared to my grandmother. He sounded almost like the stereotypical “Swedish Chef” from the Muppets, and my grandmother sounded perfectly “normal.”

    (Incidentally, neither my half-Irish American father nor I ever thought my grandmother had an accent when speaking English. My half-Scottish, half-Irish American mother, however, insists to this day that my grandmother had a VERY thick accent and was barely comprehensible.)

    I think the greatest audial difference between Sweden-Swedish and Finland-Swedish is that Sweden-Swedish sounds really bouncy and jolting and Finland-Swedish sounds much more level but lilting, a lot of the vowels are held longer, and, in my opinion, is much more pleasant to listen to (although I suppose I’m biased).

    Unfortunately I’ve never heard a Finnish-speaking Finn speak Swedish, so I’ve no idea how different they sound from Swedish-speaking Finns or Swedes. But Finnish is a beautiful and unique language to listen to, and it even looks lovely when written (so it’s no wonder that Tolkien fell in love with the Finnish language.)

    Oh, and just to be clear to those of you who are not Finns — Swedish-speaking Finns are absolutely, positively FINNS. Many of us emigrated from Sweden 600 or 700 years ago, others of us are really ethnic Finns who switched over to speaking Swedish during Sweden’s rule and never switched back to speaking Finnish even after the Karelianism movement, and many of us (like me) are a mixture of both. After all, we Finns (both Swedish- and Finnish-speaking) have stoically and repeatedly fought the Russians until, of course, (as my grandmother would say) “we finally Finnished them off”. And, regardless of language, that is something to be very proud of as a Finn.

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