Laan van Nieuw Oost-Indië 275, The Hague, The Netherlands +31(0)70 365 46 77

Word of the Day: flikker (gay)

The Swedish word ‘flicka’ evokes memories of a visit to Sweden some hundred years or so ago, when I was still far from ‘gamla’ or GAMMEL (yesterday’s word). At a midsummer crayfish party somewhere in pre-Wallander country, I had a crush on a beautifully blonde blue-eyed Swedish ‘flicka’. Having sucked the meat out of delicious boiled crayfish and having swallowed too many drops of the lethal water of life, I soon lost sight of her. Akvavit is killing… or was it Gammel Dansk?. After I returned to our marshy land, I lost the urge to learn the vakra flicka’s wonderful language. Which I now regret. 


A Swedish ‘flicka’ and Dutch FLIKKER have nothing in common. FLIKKER is a term of abuse for a homosexual: a ‘fag’ or ‘poofter’. And yet, I used to think, it made sense. Calling a man ‘girl’ makes it very obvious that you want to insult him for unmanly behaviour. Wrong!

The etymological dictionary set me right. Apparently the Swedish word ‘flicka’ (Norwegian ‘flikja’) used to mean ‘loose woman’ in the sixteenth century. In Dutch the original nineteenth century meaning of FLIKKER was also ‘loose guy or girl’ before it evolved into its gay sense in the early twentieth century.

The original Scandinavian ‘loose woman’ developed into a pure ‘girl’ over the course of several centuries. Strange evolution.

If I am not mistaken the Dutch word FLIKKER is slowly evolving into a honorary nickname these days. The Netherlands is the first country in the world to allow gay marriages. The first marriage was contracted in Amsterdam in 2001. Sweden and Norway followed in 2010 and Denmark in 2012.

If someone tells you to FLIKKER OP! (‘go to hell’), consider that this summons is not related to beautiful girls or gay persons. It is related to the ancient verb FLIKKEREN which means ‘to hurl’ and is somehow related to Old English ‘flicorian’ (flutter). There are several expressions with FLIKKER in Dutch. ‘Het kan hem geen flikker schelen’ (he does not care a damn), ‘hij heeft geen flikker gedaan’ (he has not done anything) and ‘hij weet er geen flikker van’ (he has not done a bloody thing) are most common.

Tomorrow’s word is LOEDER, bitch.