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Word of the Day: glimlachen (to smile)

Glimlachen (/glɪmlαχən/).

De zon schijnt dus het is tijd voor een GLIMLACH! The sun is shining so it’s time for a smile. EEN GLIMLACH, smile is laughter without a sound. A sign of joy, happiness!


What will definitely make you, students of Dutch, GLIMLACHEN, is the fact that the English verb SMILE is originally Middle Dutch SMUILEN, Middle Low German (‘smilen’) and Scandinavian (Danish ‘smile’, Swedish ‘smila’). Before the English learned to ‘smile’, there was the Old English verb ‘smearcian’ (now ‘to smirk’). When a Dutchman smirks he is in the act of MEESMUILEN.

Funny that the Dutch lost the word SMUILEN in the sense of ☺, and replaced it with GLIMLACHEN. DE GLIMLACH, smile was originally GRIMLACH. GRIM used to mean ‘face’ or ‘mask’ (cf Dutch GRIMAS). Because GRIM also had the sense of ‘fury’ or ‘anger’ the sense of GRIMLACH developed into a ‘snigger’. A famous nineteenth century book of poetry by Piet Paaltjens is called ‘Snikken en grimlachjes’ (Sobs and sniggers). Read it. It is one of the few 19th century books still in print. Funny and moving at the same time and excellent study material.

So the negative R in GRIMLACH was exchanged for a positive L and the word became GLIMLACH. GLIMMEN means to shine, gleam, or glimmer. Hence GLIMLACH, the glimmering, glittering, shining laugh, the happy laugh.

When you think of GLIMLACH, you probably see in your mind’s eye mysterious Mona Lisa. But the true master of the LACH and GLIMLACH, as I pointed out yesterday is Frans Hals whose wonderful exhibition in Haarlem you should not miss.