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"Do not park in front of the tõkke/puu." The bar (puu) is a barrier which stops you (tõkestab sind) from passing through. In this case, it controls entry into the parkla or parkimis/plats of the Vanemuise teater in Tartu.


I had to think about what this was called in English and realized it's simply a (parking) gate. A classic gate in Estonian, the one where you must lift a latch to be able to push it open and enter a yard is a värav. But this is simply a bar – a puu. Yes, like a tree is puu, but a staff, rod, bar, pole, lath or even log is also a puu. (Teivas, kaigas, latt, sau, kepp, palk.) Some well-known Estonian expressions include: "Ma tegin talle pika puuga ära"– I was better than him/her by a great margin – a long rod. Another is "Ma olin nagu puuga pähe saanud" – said when something takes you by surprise, leaves you reeling, like you've been  hit over the head with a bat.


But that's yet another word in Estonian – a baseball bat is a pesapallikurikas. When you bowl, you also try to knock over the kurikad (pins). Not karikas, with an A, that a trophy. There's keegel / keegeldamine (9 pin bowling) and bowling (10 pin).


The pole in pole vault is a teivas and the sport is called teivas/hüpe. In kõrgus/hüpe (high jump) the  horizontal bar is called a latt and hence the expression of measurement or achievement. If you say "Tal on latt väga madalal" – "His/Her bar is (placed) really low", it's a judgement call related to someone's ambition, to place the bar.


Another kind of puu is a kaigas; a short, thick stick used as a weapon – a cudgel or bludgeon. A police officer's club, baton or truncheon (British) is a nui, a staff is a sau.


But back to the tõke at hand. Any kind of barrier is a tõke, which has the effect of tõkestamine (obstructing, blocking). In construction, niiskus/tõke is a moisture or vapor barrier. The track event of hurdles is tõkke/jooks or "obstacle run", whereas a steeplechase (horse or human) is takistus/jooks and an obstacle course is a takistus/rada. Takistus and tõke are sünonüümid, as are the verbs takistamine and tõkestamine.


Single versus double k-s in the case of tõke (singular), tõkked (plural) – just like lõke, lõkked (campfire(s)) – can be hard to distinguish, if you're not living in an Estonian language environment. Just remember, the singular has only 1 k. Say it aloud, so you can hear the difference in distinguishing lengths: See on lõke. Ma süütan (mille?) lõkke. See on tõke; ma ületan tõkke.


And to raise the tõkkepuu, you will probably need a PULT (remote control), from the longer juhtimis/pult. Not to be confused with the other, old sense of pult (kõne-, lugemis-/pult – lectern) or kantsel (pulpit). Your tv, stereo, other electronic devices and garage door are all operated via a pult. Which is also a kind of little stick or variant of puu... Most like a kepp (stick, baton). If you're running a relay race, that would be a teate/kepp, a "message stick". I'll stop now.


Riina Kindlam,



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