October 3, 2013 1 Comment
The Finnish month names sound nothing like ours — “ours” being English, Spanish, German, anything derived from Latin — but ultimately they make more sense. Allow me to explain.
The calendar of Romulus contained ten months, starting with March. The first four months owe their names to the gods: Mars, Aphrodite, Maia and Juno. (Another hypothesis says that April was named after the verb aperire, “to open”.) But then it seems that the Romans got bored with deities and just numbered the months: quintilis (fifth), sextilis (sixth) and so on. In the calendar of Numa, two extra months were added, named after Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions, and Februa, a Roman purification ritual. After further calendar reform, quintilis and sextilis were renamed in honour of Julius Caesar and Octavianus Augustus, respectively.
Now the months in Finnish are named after agricultural activities or natural phenomena. Invariably, they end on kuu, the Finnish word for moon or month. For instance, now is lokakuu — mud month. Sounds a bit depressive? Just you wait, next month will be marraskuu — the month of death. (Dead leaves, dead grass, death of the year, this kind of stuff.)
In this respect, the Finnish month names are similar to the month names in many Slavic languages. (But not in Russian, which uses the same boring Latin-derived names.) To illustrate this point, I put the Latin, Finnish and Ukrainian months in the table below.
|Latin||named after||Finnish||named after||Ukrainian||named after|
|ianuarius||Janus||tammikuu||heart, core||січень||felling (of trees)|
|februarius||Februa||helmikuu||pearls (i.e. ice droplets)||лютий||cruel, fierce, severe|
|aprilis||Aphrodite||huhtikuu||clearing (of the forest)||квітень||flowering|
|iunius||Juno||kesäkuu||untended field||червень||larvae (of the insects)|
|iulius||Julius Caesar||heinäkuu||hay||липень||(flowering of) lime tree|
|september||number 7||syyskuu||autumn||вересень||(flowering of) heather|
|october||number 8||lokakuu||mud||жовтень||yellow colour|
|november||number 9||marraskuu||death||листопад||fall of the leaves|
|december||number 10||joulukuu||Christmas||грудень||clod of (frozen) earth|
On the contrary, the Finnish names for days of the week, as well as the word for week itself (viikko), are practically wholesale nicked from a Germanic language. That’s why all of them, apart from keskiviikko (itself a calque of German Mittwoch, i.e. “middle of the week” ), end on tai rather than on päivä.