Eesti Elu
Kool is cool
Arvamus 01 Sep 2011  Eesti Elu
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(That's lahe, not jahe)

The picture speaks for itself. "Those are seljakotid!" – backpacks, is what I would have said once upon a time, since while living in Canada I had never heard of the term ranits. A ranits is a type of backpack used by young kids as schoolbags. They usually have sturdier sides and some older ones used to look like a little attaché case – you could either carry it by its single handle on top, or use the straps in behind to wear it on your back. Nifty! Lahe!

As for pinal, I'm assuming this might be a new word for some, since I always thought the word was "penaal". Whether I had a hearing problem or people in my family used some sort of local dialect for the word, I'm not sure, but kids in Estonia carry a pinal or pencil case in their koolikott (schoolbag), whatever its shape or size.

Estonians abroad have always called ball-point pens sulepead, even though they are a far cry from anything close to a sulg (feather). The term sulepea (literally "quill head / tip") is not unheard of in Eesti, although it could elicit a giggle. A fountain pen is still called a täite-sulepea (täitma means to fill), but an everyday ball-point is known as a "pastakas", from the term pasta-pliiats. Pasta as in paste, not unleavened dough... (Think hambapasta – toothpaste.)

If you or someone close to you is going back to school, there are 4 kinds of pliiatsid you should know about: pliiats – pencil, pastapliiats – pen, värvipliiats – coloured pencil and viltpliiats or felt tip, aka a marker, commonly known as a vildikas.

Ever used an Estonian crayon? It's a rasvakriit. Literally meaning "grease chalk". Augustaja is a hole punch. Klammerdaja is a stapler. Paperclips are kirjaklambrid ("letter clips"). Eraser you know: kustutuskumm, "erasing rubber", more often known as the slightly shorter kustukumm and ruler is an oldie too: joonlaud (straight edge). But a compass for drawing circles and arcs? Sirkel. Just think circle.

I remember occasionally using graph paper in algkool (elementary school), but in Eesti your matemaatikavihik or math notebook is always ruuduline (checkered), as opposed to jooneline (lined). You need lots of both kinds of these vihikud (notebooks), as well as something totally new to me – an õpilaspäevik. This so-called "student diary" is a notebook/calender in which the student writes his or her schedule and homework and teachers record marks and comments. If someone talks about putting their papers in a mapp it's got nothing to do with geography. A map, as in road map is a (maa)kaart, but a cardboard folder or other cover of heavier material is known as a mapp.

I had to call my 14 year-old relative to find out what her and her friends call correction fluid or so-called Liquid Paper. I was guessing it might be parandusvedelik (correction fluid), but no. The word you've been dying to know (if you're addicted to the stuff) is valgendaja ("whitener"). And yes, creamer for your coffee can also be called valgendaja.

At school talking the talk is paramount. If the weather is on your mind, then cool = jahe, but if you're talking attitude, then the word to use is LAHE. Lahe tegelane, lahe kuju = cool dude. Lahe can be used to describe many shades and states of feeling good, e.g. when you have space, freedom and room to breathe. A refreshing summer salad is lahe. It also means light, fun and worry-free. And has become slang to express approval and admiration. "Eesti keel on lahe keel, seda räägiks veel ja veel." Estonian is a cool language, keep talkin' the talk."
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