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Word of the Day: duif (pigeon, dove)

Duif (/də:yf/). Some people hate these city birds, others love them. Jacqueline, for instance, cannot stand their loud cooing at break of day when they wake her up. And on top of that her balcony is covered with DUIVENPOEP, ‘dove droppings’. Every year there is a romantic couple outside her bedroom window. And soon there will be more of them. 


Adapted to urban life, DE STADSDUIF, the feral pigeon (Columba livia domestica) is related to the wild Rock Dove (Columba livia) which naturally inhabits sea-cliffs and mountains. Ledges of buildings are used as a substitute for the cliffs and rocks. Apparently a DUIF cannot tell the difference between a natural landscape and a cityscape.

DUIF and ‘dove’ are linguistically related words. They both go back to medieval times, to ‘dūva’ and ‘dūfe’. In Celtic ‘dubh’ means ‘black’ (as in Irish Dubhlinn, meaning ‘black pool’), so some people think that the original meaning of DUIF, dove was a dark bird. In Dutch a male DUIF is called a DOFFER, ‘cock-pigeon’. In Greek the name is ‘kolumbis’ which means ‘diver’. So others think that DUIF could be derived from Old English ‘dūfan’ (‘dive’, ‘duiken’). Dark bird or diving bird, we will never know.

A DUIF makes funny movements when it struts around and that is probably why Viola called her daughter Charlotte EEN DOLLE DUIF (‘dippy dove’) when she was making beatboxing sounds accompanied by rhythmic movements. ‘Na ja!!!!’ wrote a bewildered Charlotte this morning in her Facebook blog.

Who is this DOLLE DUIF, this Charlotte, you may ask? A young woman (working under the name of Charvis) living and working in The Hague and Voorschoten who inspired me to write this word of the day, DUIF.

But there is more. Charvis is a wonderful designer of clothes, jewellery, shoes and a talented artist. Recently she had her first breakthrough when shoes of her design were exhibited in the window of the fashionable Lisadore shop at Noordeinde in The Hague. As you can see from the feathers on her stylish shoes she loves birds and, in fact, wild natural life in general. No wonder that the beauty of nature is reflected in everything Charvis creates.