Eesti Elu
Multilingual närilised
Eestlased Eestis 16 May 2014  Eesti Elu
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PHOTO: How movie titles are interpreted worldwide is always interesting. This movie just starting showing in Estonian kinod (cinemas), so a lot of people in the west must be at least somewhat familiar with these karva/näod (furry faces) and punn/põsed (chubby cheeks) belonging to the star oravad (squirrels) & co. The original title of this laste joonis/film (animated kids’ movie) is The Nut Job. The Estonian translation Paras pähkel is an expression used to describe something that is hard to accomplish or to crack open. “A hard nut to crack” is the English equivalent, although in Estonian it can describe a person, but is more often used to describe a challenging situation.
The first example I could glean from the net was "Vana maja fassaaditööd on paras pähkel" – Facade work on an old house is "quite the nut". In other words, difficult. Paras pähkel should not be confused with para/pähkel, the more common name for Brasiilia pähkel – Brazil nut.
The subtitle of this pere/film or family movie is "No guts. No glory." In Estonia, they went the alliteration route: pähkel põske ja punuma = stick a nut in your cheek and go. Punuma means to weave, like patsi punuma – to braid hair, essentially weaving. But punuma is also slang for running fast (like liduma, plagama, jalga laskma, põgenema – that last one means to escape. Jänes pistis punuma – the rabbit took off.
It’s no secret that one great way of learning a new language or improving it, is to walk in step with little learners. Childrens’ books, movies and songs serve as fun and useful tools of language acquisition for everyone. If you want to read more about Päras pähkel and the Estonian actors giving the elukad (creatures) their Estonian voices and text, go to
And a word of advice from the oravad (squirrels), vööt/oravad (chipmunks) and other närilised (rodents), from the word närima = to chew, the advice being – try to buy your nuts in the shell (koorega), since you never know how long ago they were kooritud (shelled) and many nuts, especially parapähklid or Brazil nuts, due to their particularly high fat content, can soon become rancid. Estonian squirrels call that rääsuma; rääsunud pähklid.
Riina Kindlam, Tallinn
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