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PostSisu: The Finnish Way (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA, 03/19/19 4:15 am)
Gary Moore writes:
The very effective nations-compared WAIS thread on Finland (begun, I think, by Tor Guimaraes and others, then wonderfully expanded by Cameron Sawyer and others) finally rang a strange bell from my childhood, with the valuable culmination as Henry Levin brought in expert Sam Abrams on Finnish educational excellence.
The bell was rung by Sam's mention of sisu, the quintessentially Finnish word meaning, as I gather it: you get it done no matter what. Somehow as a child watching TV I had been transfixed by a grainy documentary about the Winter War of 1939, where Finnish underdog courage gave us the term "Molotov cocktail," as used against Soviet tanks. On TV, the correspondent telling the story gazed grimly at the screen and said something like: "The Finns have a word for this--sisu." He said the word meant "guts"--an apt complement to Sam Abrams' translation just now: "blind determination." It's an odd comment on memory and emotion that such a long-ago commentator's remark could so deeply lodge in my mental archives, to label a niche that might be called: This is what it's like when you see if you've got what it takes.
Sisu. I didn't know how to spell it, until now.
JE comments: One of the perils of this job--constant distraction by Wikipedia! The article on Molotov cocktails taught me two things. First, the Spanish used petrol bombs in the Civil War before they had their now-universal name. Second, the Finns named their devices in reaction to Soviet claims that they weren't cluster-bombing Finland, but rather dropping food parcels. The Finns called these lethal packages Molotov breadbaskets. The cocktails would help to wash them down.