Some of you might have gone away from my last post with the impression that I am in the idyllic position of living with a lady who is not only low maintenance (she is), but also contributes practical ideas for my hobby. And that I am therefore to be envied.
Whilst true to some extent, this is also a simplification. A simplification in the sense that it is the only occasion on which she has offered any practical suggestions (as opposed to downright rude ones). Her normal stance on my hobbies (wargaming and following Grimsby Town) is amused indifference.
Tonight I read the Tradgardmastare’s second instalment of a tale of revenge by one of the Little People, in which he refers to the said vertically challenged gentleman as ‘the tomte’.
Now then, I haven’t really heard of the word tomte before (except on his blog) and it immediately struck me it appears similar to the Finnish word ‘tonttu’. Very active folk at this time of year, with cute little kids singing a very cute song about them).
T’internet tells me that tonttu* are the same things as their Scandinavian brethren (human political and linguistic borders mean nothing to them). Other names for the little folk include nisse or tomtenisse and also tomtegubbe. The last of which brings me to a term which my wife has recently taken to applying to me. In fact she has a wicked glint in her eye when she refers to me as ‘vanha gubbe’.
* I’m not sure what the appropriate plural signifier is here. It’s not been adopted into English so I’m not confident that S is applicaple, but Finnish plurals are bloody complicated. Any grammarians out there?
This turns out to be a phrase in her dialect. Native Swedish speakers number c.40% of people in her home town so the Swedish language has had a big influence. The phrase is a mix of Finnish and Swedish. Swennish or Findish as you will. Vanha is Finnish for old, and gubbe is Swedish for old man (and I detect it is not old man in a nice, respectful sense either, though I haven’t pinned down the exact nuance as she is resisting full clarification). I suppose the term is therefore tautologous. But you don’t suppose she could be using the first ‘old’ as emphasis?
I’ve always thought of my wife (who is not the tallest of people) as being a bit elvish, what with Tolkien using Finnish as inspiration for his Elven tongue and them basically being forest folk. And her use of the term vanha gubbe is delivered with a somewhat mischievous tone. She couldn’t, could she?