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Perkele (Finnish: [ˈperkele] (listen)) means evil spirit or variation of words "god damn" in Finnish and is a popular Finnish profanity. It is most likely the most internationally known Finnish curse word.
The name is of Indo-European origin; Perkwunos is the reconstructed name of the god of thunder. Other gods from cultures hypothesized from the same origin include Perkūnas (Lithuania), Pērkons (Latvia), Percunis (Prussia), Piarun (Belarus), Peko or Pekolasõ (Estonia), Parjanya (India), Fairguneis (Gothic), and Perun or Piorun (Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia).
Some researchers consider Perkele to be an original name of the thunder god Ukko, the chief god of the Finnish pagan pantheon, but this view is not shared by all researchers. There are related words in other Finnic languages: in Estonian, põrgu means hell, in Karelian perkeleh means an evil spirit.
It has a history of being used as a curse: a cry for the god for strength. It still is a common curse word in vernacular Finnish. To a Finn, the word entails seriousness and potency that more lightly used curses lack. Also, when the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland held a popular contest to nominate the "most energizing" word in the Finnish language, one of the suggestions was Perkele because "it is the curse word that gave the most strength for the reconstruction of Finland after the wars."
Introduction of Christianity
As Finland was Christianized, the old Finnish deities were regarded as demons. This led to the use of "Perkele" as a translation for "Devil" in the Finnish translation of the Bible. Later, in other translations, the word was rendered as paholainen (the evil one).
Uses in popular culture
- Many Finnish bands like Impaled Nazarene, Norther and Pepe Deluxe use the word perkele for emphasis and to reference Finnishness, while another Finnish metal band, Amorphis, have a song titled "Perkele (The God of Fire)", the sixth track on their album Eclipse.
- The Swedish Oi! band Perkele were formed in 1993 in Gothenburg and are currently signed to Oi! the Boat Records.
- In the webcomic Scandinavia and the World, Finland is depicted as a sullen, violent drunk who is largely mute, save for uttering the word "perkele" when things do not go his way.
- In the 2019 video game Control, Ahti, a Finnish janitor who is also hinted to be an enormously powerful supernatural entity, uses perkele as a crutch word when describing the weird events taking place in the Federal Bureau of Control.
- In the 2016 video game My Summer Car taking place in 90s Finland one of the controls of the game is a "swear button" allowing the player character to say a handful of random exclamatory statements with perkele being one of them. Depicting Finnish life of the era many of the characters in the game's rural setting also use this phrase. This had led to a portion of the English speaking fans of the game to say perkele on forums discussing the game.
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