Monday, 9 November 2015

November (marraskuu) – the month of the dead

One of the interesting things about language (for a word wrestler, anyway) is the origin of words. I find these particularly fascinating when it comes to everyday words that we use without thinking about the origins of their meaning – or even unaware of it.

For example, the Finnish name for November, marraskuu. The name contains the word marras (kuu means ’moon’ or ’month’). Not many people these days know the meaning of the word, but it refers to death. Marras can actually mean various things from a dead body to a dying person, from a spirit to an omen of death, and it is of the same root as the English worda mortal and morbid.

The saying “maa makaa martaana”, the ground/earth lies dead, reveals what the word marras means in the name of November: it refers to nature’s death. I find it a very fitting and even a hauntingly beautiful, although a rather morbid, name.

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