January 23, 2011

Sisu, the Finns’ favorite word

Because it’s long, I have set this video to start at the discussion of sisu; it’s worth watching all the way from the beginning, however.

From Wikipedia:

Sisu has been described by The New York Times as “the word that explains Finland”, and the Finns’ “favorite word” – “the most wonderful of all their words.” During the famous Winter War of 1939–1940, the Finnish perseverance in the face of the invasion by the Soviet Union popularized this word in English for a generation. In what might have been the first use of sisu in the English language, on January 8, 1940, Time Magazine reported:

The Finns have something they call sisu. It is a compound of bravado and bravery, of ferocity and tenacity, of the ability to keep fighting after most people would have quit, and to fight with the will to win. The Finns translate sisu as “the Finnish spirit,” but it is a much more gutful word than that. Last week the Finns gave the world a good example of sisu by carrying the war into Russian territory on one front while on another they withstood merciless attacks by a reinforced Russian Army. In the wilderness that forms most of the Russo-Finnish frontier between Lake Laatokka and the Arctic Ocean, the Finns definitely gained the upper hand.
Time Magazine, January 8, 1940

This is also sisu:

Translation, according to YouTube commenter CityKanin, 8 months ago:

(remember this tells of the time that Finland was completely depending on agriculture)
Voiceover: The Finnish Guts
Actor: God dammit Devils, not longer shall you rape my lands Frost! That is certain, dammit! God be damned! Hell, this is for sure, dammit!
(He is referring to the frost that comes and kills the crop and cursing it away…)

As is, apparently, this:

Finnish monument to sisu
(photo: Aleksi Ollikainen & Juho Heikkinen)

(All of the above via SC.)


  1. Lucy Foley on January 23rd, 2011 at 2:43 am

    Whoa. I’m up late.

  2. Lucy Foley on January 23rd, 2011 at 2:46 am

    Oh god I’ve got to introduce you to Virpi.

  3. India on January 23rd, 2011 at 6:01 am

    But you already did!

  4. India on January 23rd, 2011 at 6:03 am

    Also? You obviously don’t know from staying up late. Amateur.

  5. Deron Bauman on January 23rd, 2011 at 9:50 am

    This is the best clusterflock Sunday morning. Ever.

  6. Sheila Ryan on January 23rd, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    India, I am just now getting around to watching and reading, and it is all too frigging WEIRD. One of last night’s dreamland vignettes was set in Finland in 1939. A tire on our vehicle had developed bald patches, and we had no spare. A sympathetic man and his son (who was really his daughter) offered to take us to where we could get a replacement tire, but I thought that might place them in too much danger, so we set off on our own.

    Then something else happened.

  7. Lucy Foley on January 23rd, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    So Sheila? I’m pretty sure you have to come to New York and hang out with me and India and Virpi.

  8. Sheila Ryan on January 23rd, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    It’s looking that way, all right. I’ll ride a bus.