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 anthropologists, 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 Inuit, Chukchi and the Yooper.
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 ), icebreaker MS Sisu, a brand of strong-tasting candy manufactured by Leaf , and a Finnish nationalist organisation Suomen Sisu . Mount Sisu is the name of a mountain first ascended by mountain climber Veikka Gustafsson in 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, and needs to be distinguished from courage , especially when talking about the military. In contrast, sisu is an ability to finish the task and get things done, as defined by Roman Schatz in 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 .
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 strive for mischief, persecution and vengeance (compare chutzpah ). It is in a sense the mirror image of good sisu. Finnish expression pahansisuinen implies "audacious", "implacable", "full of affrontery", "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, "innards"; "get a lump in one's throat", as in become too intimidated to act.
-from wikipedia sisu
Washington Post on Sisu
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