Lars Wirzenius: Anecdotes, 2006


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Anecdotes: Finnish as an encryption method

Watching my sister's Welsh boyfriend slowly learn Finnish, I'm reminded of the fact that the language is often considered difficult. At any rate, it is spoken by a very small percentage of the world's population. Some Finns therefore think they can safely use it abroad to talk about anything, even if it is embarrassing or sensitive. I've found that not to be true.

There's other Finns everywhere. There's always someone who will hear and understand if you say something not meant for outsiders. A couple of anecdotes might prove this.

In 1990, I was abroad for the first time, in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, for an ACM programming competition. I and a team mate spent one evening in a local bar, talking with each other. After a while we were interrupted by a Finnish woman who lives in Eindhoven. Luckily, we hadn't said anything too bad, she just recognized fellow Finns and wanted to say hi.

In 1999, I was in London for a conference, and had a bit of free time, which I spent walking on Oxford Street. At some point, I was walking behind two young men, in their early twenties. They were speaking fairly loudly, commenting on the physiological features of the woman walking in front of them. The woman eventually stopped, turned around, and started swearing at them. Loudly. In Finnish.

My theory is that Finns are slowly taking over the world by spying on each other abroad. That's why there's always at least two Finns anywhere.