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Encountered on Tallinn's Toom/puies/tee (Toom Boulevard): "If you can't get a screw in the wall, then call me." Foto: Riina Kindlam

Although missing some kirja/vahe/märgid (punctuation), namely a koma and punkt, the message on the kapott (hood) of this kaubik (small kauba/auto, van) is a welcome one for anyone needing a meistri/mees (handyman).


Rahva/suu (the collective "mouth of the people") has an age-old nickname for toru/lukk/sepad (plumbers), which is Toru-Jüri – "Pipe George". It is not  derogatory (many businesses use the name) and should therefore not to be confused with toru/loru – a not so bright, inept person. Torujüri (it has become a one-word term) is a respected and much-needed specialist who knows his/her worth and tunni/hind (hourly wage), such as 37 euros including käibe/maks (sales tax). In the same vein, the man (most likely a mees) behind this vehicle could be Kruvi-Kaarel ("Screw Karl") – as a descriptive name, not in the imperative...


I was teasing with the händ in the headline. I meant a hand with 5 fingers, which in Estonian is käsi. But händ is also an older Estonian word meaning the back end of an animal, i.e. a synonym for saba (tail). A pisu/händ or tuli/händ (aka a kratt) is a mythological flying impish spirit with a burning tail-streak, who steals things for whomever it is serving. In contrast, an extremely contemporary "mütoloogiline" creature: yellow, (sometimes) with one big eye, who many will dress up as for Hallowe'en is called a käsi/lane – a MINION! The original meaning is that of a henchman, but also a trusted attendant, supporter or follower. Don't mean to confuse, but it's pretty great that a synonym of käsilane is saba/rakk. That's because s/he's there to lend a hand and is following you like a händ. I mean saba.


If there's a KÄSI/lane, there must also be a HÄNI/lane. And there is. It's a yellow Eurasian bird that "wags" its HÄND (tail). Up and down, not side to side. In English, it's the yellow wagtail and is the relative of the famous lina/västrik (white wagtail), which is very common in Eesti and known for incessantly licking  or wagging its tail. It has many charming nicknames including jää/lõhkuja and jää/põtk ("icebreaker", which it does with its saba or händ of course), and also pika/hänna/mees – "long tail man", who happens to also be Latvia's national bird.


Riina Kindlam,



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