Part 1 of the very popular upcoming online course “Learn Finnish with Mom of Finland”.

Oho is something you might hear a lot in Finland, or dealing with Finns outside of Finland. Or you might not really hear it since we say it, like other things, so quietly it’s almost impossible to hear. But let’s pretend that you have the hearing of The Superman, then you would hear Oho a lot with Finns.

If you had other Superman’s superpowers too it would be pretty awesome. You could heat up a sauna really fast, or .. umm… there must be another use for Superman’s abilities too, something that would come handy to a Finn, but I can’t think of any now.

The internet describes Oho as acknowledgement a minor mistake, like oops, or an indication of excitement or surprise, like wow, whoa and ay, chihuahua! I have never heard the last one used, but I have heard another version of it from my children, “YAY, a chihuahua!”, and this is surprisingly common.

Finnish internet describes it also as exclamation indicating astonishment, remorse or regret, disapproval or amazement, and doubt. For example: “Oho, this place sure is crowded!”, “Oho! The things you hear these days…” or “Oho! That’s a lie!”.

Remorse you say? Yes, for shy little Finns, oho is also a modern day sorry. If someone bumps into you in the supermarket, you don’t get a sorry, you get an oho. Preferably avoiding eye contact. If your great grandmother* died and you happen to mention this in a conversation, maybe at the workplace, or with other people you wouldn’t call your close friends, you can get an oho with a sad look. If someone accidentally breaks your nose, you’ll get an oho.

If your kids didn’t properly clean their room after the ninth time you told them to, and you go check their room, you can just point at a dirty sock on the floor, or in my children’s case, at the desk, and you’ll get a quiet oho.

Or when you’re having a serious talk with your child, and they claim they have brushed their teeth every single morning and night, and even after you point out that their toothbrush has been sitting in their shoe** ever since they came back from their visit to grandma a week ago, they still claim they have brushed their teeth every night, you might be the one rolling your eyes and saying oho.

* Or just grandmother if the great part isn’t as plausible, thinking of peoples age and all.

** Apparently a fine and handy place to use for storing personal hygiene products if you don’t have a toiletry bag.

Photo by Toa Heftiba.

— Editors

The writer of this story is a member of the Mom of Finland community.

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