Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pelinti Bula and Pilkunnussija

Today I want to share with you two new words that I didn’t even know I needed. 

The first of these is Pelinti Bula, from Ghana. It’s a word that describes the instinctive, involuntary action we end up doing when we inadvertently eat something piping hot. 

The hot dance that our mouth responds with, the one in which we move the hot food around in our mouth in a desperate attempt to cool it before swallowing, while shouting “Ooooohhhh” and “Aaaahhhhhh,” that is Pelinti Bula, at its finest.

I can’t tell you how pleased I am to learn this word.

I have never been sensible enough to check the temperature of food before lobbing it into my mouth like a grenade. And like a grenade, it bursts.

And then I do the Pelinti Bula, tossing the food from side to side, hoping it will cool, when all it does is burn this side of my mouth first, and then the other, while scalding my tongue, and rendering it incapable of tasting anything for the next seven hours. At least.

It’s like walking barefoot on hot sand. You hop about from one foot to another, hoping the ordeal will be over.

Have you ever had to resort to Pelinti Bula?

The second word that is integral to my personality comes to us, courtesy the Finns. The word is Pilkunnussija, Finnish for a person who pays exceptional and unnecessary attention to detail.

I’m a complete Pilkunnussija when it comes to grammar. I’m always editing other people’s writing, in my mind.

But it was only a few months ago that I learned just how far I was taking my obsession with grammar.

La Niña and El Niño were playing with each other. Suddenly they started fighting, slapping and pinching each other. I quickly ran towards them and pulled them apart.

Unable to vent out their anger physically, they began to point fingers at each other.

“He started it,” said La Niña.

“No, Mamma, she bate me first, then I bate her.”

Now any sensible mother would have tried to calm her kids down. But Pilkunnussija can hardly be credited with sense.

So this Mamma said to her five-year-old son, “No, darling, that’s not the right thing to say. The past tense of eat is ate, but the past tense of beat is not bate. It is still beat. And the past tense of the word, meet, is met. Understood?”

El Niño nodded, clearly pleased that his behaviour was not being discussed any more.

I looked up, and saw La Niña, with a disbelieving look on her face. “I don’t believe it, Mamma,” she said. “Instead of scolding him and correcting his behaviour, you are correcting his grammar.”

That was when it hit me. The intensity of my Pilkunnussija.

Have you ever acted like a Pilkunnussija?


  1. I can't help but correct my childrens' grammar as well. As for the hot food, I hate it when the roof of my mouth gets burned right behind the front two teeth and swells. So painful.

    That's a gorgeous place to visit. We go to a fancy hotel every Christmas to see a gingerbread house contest (Grovepark Inn, Asheville, NC), but we do not stay at the hotel.

    1. Oh yes, eating hot food is no fun. I've learned that lesson often enough, and yet I never seem to remember.

  2. Hi Cynthia - love the hot one ... it used to happen quite often! I can be obsessive ... but I've come to adjust - love your explanation though ... cheers Hilary

    1. Thanks, Hilary. I still haven't learned to tone down my obsession. Maybe my kids will teach me that.

  3. Definitely need the word for hot food in the mouth - why do we still do it even when we are adults for goodness sake???? And as for your recount, I am pretty much the same - and you can imagine how that went sometimes as a teacher in a class of 5 year olds!!

    1. I guess some lessons we have to keep learning, until they register in our minds.
      I can imagine your attempts to instill good grammar skills into 5-year-old kids. But then again, you have to let them start young.

  4. Yes, I have done the hot food swirl, but your second word description had me laughing out loud.

    1. YEs, Denise, they are words we can all relate to.
      Glad to know you enjoyed the description.

  5. Have I ever acted like a Pilkunnussija? Oooh yes. In fact, I am always fussing over details, and I do not restrict my fussing to grammar. Thanks for the fun words!
    Melanie Atherton Allen

    1. Melanie, glad to meet you. It's always nice to meet another Pilkunnussija. If we didn't fuss over details, how would we reach out for perfection.

  6. Hilarious. I can imagine your daughter looking at you in disbelief. I am a Pilkunnussija when it comes to music. I can't stand it when so-called singers are unable to hit the high notes properly.


    1. Anjali, isn't it painful, when you are a Pilkunnussija and other people don't share the same attention to detail.



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