Leikkiä, Pelata, Soittaa = Play

Spurred on by Kassen in the last post, and as someone who happens to be learning Finnish, one of the things (originally pointed out to me by Teemu Leinonen) that has struck me is the superfluity of words used to describe “play” – which has always seemed one of these dangerously obscure words in english, with similar problems to “free”.

“Pelata” is to play something you can win (so includes most computer games, and also sports).

“Soittaa” is to play an instrument or make a sound.

“Leikkiä” is more childlike, a play without rules, when you play at being something else, play at make believe or just “play in the garden”.

I think leikkiä seems the most subversive and interesting, as it’s the sort of play where you are learning and exploring without fitting into some pre-existing assumptions (like keeping score, or playing a tune). The sort of games I like (and like to attempt to make) are definitely all about this sort of play.

2 thoughts on “Leikkiä, Pelata, Soittaa = Play

  1. Nice. So we may sometimes need to borrow Finish words to clarify things, like borrowing “Libre” to indicate what kind of software we run!

    That said, it seems extremely leikkiä to intentionally keep the meaning that we intend ambiguous. When I look at improvising jazz musicians I see elements of all three.

    Good luck with Finish; I could never make heads or tails of it, but I like how it doesn’t distinguish gender like many languages.

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