Day 3 of 11 Part Deux – Otto & Anna

1 Jul

I think I figured out what’s wrong with the Finnish written language. It’s pretty obvious to anyone that spends more than five minutes in Finland that there is something afoul with the writing. I can’t say for sure but this is probably what happened.

Contrary to what you were told in school “writing” is not magic, it’s actually a technology like agriculture or space travel is. What I mean is that it had to be invented. But after its invention a given technology itself actually behaves more like a virus in that it gets transmitted from society to society. If the society likes the idea it usually keeps it. If it does not like it – it gets thrown on the ground.

Writing was pretty late arriving in Finland relative to the rest of Europe. The country is kind of isolated, hiding all the way up in the north with none of the other countries paying much attention to her. This mostly had to do with the volleyball-sized mosquitoes in the summer and the non-stop freezing-cold ice-rain snow-blizzards in the winters. To make matters worse, the Finnish language is not even closely related to any of the world’s non-Estonian languages.

So when the concept of using physical markings to represent voice sounds arrived in Finland the locals embraced it with an unusual ferocity. These Finns are clever people. They know a good idea when they see one. But they seem to have rushed into it. It’s important to remember that when you’re building the written form of a language for the first time, your work is going to be around for a long time so you better get it right.

In a nutshell here is what happened. They dropped the high-value Scrabble letters

X W G B C

and absolutely loaded up on the umlauts and the double vowels. Just look at this:

Two umlauted letters in a row? What is this madness?

The consequences of this should be obvious to everyone: it is impossible for anyone but the most gifted linguists to learn how to read Finnish. But I’ve been told several times by several different people that I have to learn it. Well as I’ve demonstrated here I think my skills are better used elsewhere – specifically to build a jigsaw puzzle-piece-sorting robot. That is my calling. Some might argue that I can do both. To those people I say: note the use of the singular in the expression “my calling”. There can be only one.

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