Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Purppura Päivänkakkaraa

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Vaaleanpunainen Päivänkakkara.

Photographed in the Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

Image: GrrlScientist, 18 May 2010 [larger view]

Canon SX100 IS.


Here’s a silly thing that you might enjoy. When naming this image, I used Google translate to check my Finnish because, well, we all know why. Anyway, I found something weird (you can check this for yourself if you are so ambitious):

English Finnish
purple daisy purppura päivänkakkara
purple daisies purppura koiranputkea
pink daisy vaaleanpunainen päivänkakkara
pink daisies vaaleanpunainen koiranputkea
daisy päivänkakkara
daisies koiranputkea

If you look at the above table, you will notice that the singular, “daisy”, differs dramatically in the Google version between Finnish singular (päivänkakkara) and plural (koiranputkea) … WTF?? I’ve learned a few languages and none of them had a completely different word for the plural version. Certain I had made a mistake, I spent some time with my nose in not one, but two Finnish-English dictionaries — and by that, I mean actual books that collect dust on my shelves, not the online versions. This taught me that instead od giving me an actual plural version of the singular, “daisty,” Google Translate appears to be bastardizing the English phrase, “pushing up daisies”, which is työntää koiranputkea in Finnish, which translates as “pushing up cow parsley.” So I am being given the Finnish word for parsley as the Finnish plural for daisy, instead of just (correctly?) adding an extra “a” on the end of the singular form of the Finnish for “daisy,” which would give me “Päivänkakkaraa” (daisies).

So not only have I caught Google cheating, but it seems that I have inadvertently discovered that Finns don’t “push up daisies” after they die, they instead push up cow parsley. Cow parsley? Anthriscus sylvestris? I’ve got some photos of this rather unimpressive weed somewhere, but I don’t care enough about it to dig through my photo archives to find them.

Of course, this leads me to ask; does cow parsley commonly grow in Finnish graveyards?

Comments

  1. #1 Aki
    May 25, 2010

    purple daisies — purppuroita päivänkakkaroita
    pink daisies — vaaleanpunaisia päivänkakkaroita

    http://www.luomus.fi/kasviatlas/maps.php?taxon=42341&year=2007

  2. #2 Aki
    May 25, 2010

    Sorry forgot…

    two purple daisies — kaksi purppuraa päivänkakkaraa
    two pink daisies — kaksi vaaleanpunaista päivänkakkaraa

  3. #3 ACW
    May 27, 2010

    I don’t know Finnish. Having said that, though, here is some linguistic information. There are plenty of examples of two closely-related words (singular and plural of a noun, different forms of the same verb) which have wildly variant forms. Examples from English include singular person, plural people; present tense go, past tense went. This almost always happens by combining forms that originally belonged to separate words: went, for example, was originally the past tense form of the almost-obsolete verb wend.

    Nonetheless: your Finnish data is certainly a translation error on the part of Google. And as Aki points out above, Finnish plurals are finicky and hard to predict for English speakers. Apparently the main issue is that there is a case called partitive, which gets used instead of the “ordinary” plural whenever there is the slightest hint of selecting from among a larger multitude. This probably explains the difference between the two plurals Aki presents, but I don’t know which one is partitive.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    May 31, 2010

    This post has been included in the latest edition of the Berry Go Round web carnival. Please visit the carnival and let other people know about it, click on the links, read everything, and help promote plant blogging! The plants can not do this themselves, people!

  5. #5 Joy K.
    June 1, 2010

    Purple and orange make a stunning color combination. Do I see bits of pollen scattered on the petals?

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