True Finns leaders drop “True” from party’s English-language name
Public response to move largely negative or derisory
The opposition True Finns party, which made considerable gains in this year’s Parliamentary elections, decided on Sunday to change its official English-language name.
People with a knowledge of both Finnish and English have been aware of the difficulties of coming up with an English version of the party’s name. In Finnish, the party is called Perussuomalaiset; the first half of the compound word, Perus-, implies an adherence to basic, fundamental, and uncomplicated values, while the second part simply means “Finns”.
While it is generally recognised that the Finnish name successfully conveys a pithiness which appeals especially to the party’s main constituency, much of that would certainly be lost in any attempt at a very literal translation: “Basic Finns”, “Ordinary Finns”, or “Simple Finns”, and even “Rudimentary Finns” would all be reasonably accurate linguistically, but some time ago the party decided on “True Finns”, and the name has stuck in international usage, for instance by the media.
However, at a meeting of its executive committee in the Central Finnish community of Saarijärvi on Sunday, the Party Formerly Known as the True Finns decided that henceforth they should be referred to in English as simply “The Finns”.
Party Chairman Timo Soini said that one of the aims of the simplified name is to emphasise that the party promotes the interests of ordinary Finnish people.
Under the law, political parties need to have a name that distinguishes themselves sufficiently from any other registered organisation.
Arto Jääskeläinen, head of elections at the Ministry of Justice, says that the rules do not apply to English-language names that parties give themselves, because from the point of view of the law, they are unofficial.
The news item in the online version of Helsingin Sanomat attracted a flood of commentary, mostly ranging from slight disbelief to extreme derision.
Some saw the move in keeping with views expressed by some figures in the party suggesting a degree of xenophobia among its members. Others regarded it as merely another populist gesture that sought attention - it clearly succeeded in this respect.
There was also a good deal of anger and resentment at the apparent suggestion that a party - even one that made considerable gains at the ballot box in April and took nearly 20% of the vote - would have the temerity to suggest that it alone represents the entire population.
One of the commentators asked how the English-language press (which presumably includes this online paper) will be able to report on this particular party or on the country itself without a degree of confusion arising.
It remains to be seen what kinds of syntactic and even typographic acrobatics (quotation marks, italics, etc.) will be employed by news writers who may have to differentiate between the entire Finnish nation and one of its political groupings.
This is naturally an issue that we here at Helsingin Sanomat International Edition will have to deal with.
While we are confident that we can meet even this stiff challenge, we would also welcome any helpful suggestions from our readers!
Previously in HS International Edition:
True Finns renounce racism, discrimination, and favouritism (26.5.2011)
Timo Soini to reprimand MP Hakkarainen again for racially insensitive remarks (24.5.2011)