Sisu is a Finnish term that could be roughly translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. The equivalent in English is "to have guts", and indeed, the word derives from "sisus", which means something inner or interior. However, sisu has a long-term element in it; it is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain the same. To anthropologistsFact|date=July 2007, it is an appropriate invention for a cold northern land, dotted by thousands of lakes, and long under threat of being overwhelmed, militarily, linguistically and otherwise, by more powerful neighbours. Similar concepts exist among other cold-weather peoples, such as the
Inuitand Chukchi.Fact|date=October 2007
Due to its cultural significance, "Sisu" is a common element of
brand names in Finland. For example, there are Sisu brand cars (and Sisu armored vehicles), icebreakerMS Sisu, a brand of strong-tasting pastilles manufactured by [http://www.leaf.fi Leaf] , and a Finnish nationalist organisation Suomen Sisu. Mount Sisuis the name of a mountain first ascended by mountain climber Veikka Gustafssonin the Antarctic.
The term is commonly used in everyday speech to describe stoic toughness. It is widely understood in the Upper Peninsula of
Michigan, which is home to a large concentration of Finnish Americans. For instance: "Even after cutting his hand open and getting 12 stitches, he didn't shed a tear. Wow! He's got sisu!" This has extended to include a popular bumper sticker saying simply "Sisu". By analogy, the term has picked up new meanings. Depending on context, "sisu" can refer to spunk, attitude, self-confidence, and so on. However, sisu is not bravery, nor strength. It is distinguished from courage, especially when talking about the military. Sisu is an ability to finish the task and get things done, as defined by Roman Schatzin his book " From Finland with Love" (2005), and decisiveness. Usually sisu means the will and decisiveness to get things done against impossible odds, or to succeed when given the Chinaman's chance.
In Robert Heinlein's "juvenile" novel, "Citizen of the Galaxy", the protagonist was adopted by the captain of an interstellar trading ship which was named, "Sisu". This reflected Heinlein's admiration of the Finnish stand against the Soviets, Heinlein himself being ardently anti-communist. The interstellar trading "family" of which this ship was but a part, is described as being fiercely proud and independent, preferring battle and death to being taken prisoner by raiding pirates.
Sisu can be either good or bad, but the usual meaning is good. Bad sisu (Finnish "paha sisu") means malice combined with ruthlessness and implacability: it means relentless striving for mischief, persecution and vengeance. It is in a sense the opposite of good sisu. The Finnish expression "pahansisuinen" implies "audacious", "implacable", "full of effrontery", "malevolent", etc. with aggressive overtones. The verb "sisuuntua" refers to getting angry, but with an element of determination and even being unforgiving. The idiom "meni sisu kaulaan" ("the sisu went to the throat [or neck] ") returns to the original meaning of "innards"; to "get a lump in one's throat", as in become too intimidated to act.
* [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/22/AR2006032201943.html Washington Post: "The Finnish Line"] , about Finnish fortitude and resilience
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