Living proof that Finnish is one of the world’s easiest languages is provided daily by the comic strip Fingerpori, written and drawn by Pertti Jarla since 2007 and syndicated in nearly all the daily Finnish newspapers I have ever read. If I am not mistaken, a few years back, Fingerpori overtook Viivi ja Wagner, which I have translated here on a few occasions, as the most popular comic strip in Finland.
Fingerpori‘s value for the Finnish learner is that nearly every strip is based on wordplay, double entendres, and the absurdity that arises when the characters take certain expressions literally or forget (like many tyros like me often do) that words can have entirely disparate meanings in different contexts.
Unlike Viivi ja Wagner, whose humor is based on Wagner’s charmingly uncharming piggishness and Viivi’s clear-eyed yet affectionate exasperation with her boyfriend’s endless faults and abysmal male chauvinism, Fingerpori cannot usually be translated in a straightforward way.
My fabulous former Finnish teacher Tiina has drawn my attention to this strip, in which the humor revolves around the word liike, whose basic meanings are “motion” and “movement,” on the one hand, and a “shop” or a “business,” on the other. Here it appears in the inessive case—liikkeessä. (Don’t ask me where the extra “k” and the extra “e” came from: it would take too long to explain.)
In the first panel, the auto mechanic advises the man on the left, “You will save time and trouble if you change [your] tires at a/the shop.”
Unfortunately, the man on the left has heard something else: “You will save time and trouble if you change [your] tires on the go.” Meaning, literally, while “in motion.”
In the second panel, we see the man trying mightily, indeed, to change his tires on the go.
“No jaa,” he says, probably in exasperation. “Oh well.”
I imagine it takes native Finnish speakers only a few milliseconds to get the joke. For Finnish learners, on the other hand, it is a test of our fluency or, at least, our ability to puzzle out things we don’t get right off the bat.