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Word of the day: duizend (thousand)

DUIZEND, thousand, tausend. This ancient word goes back to the eighth century when it was spelled ‘tuschund’. In Old English it was ‘þūsend’. DUIZEND is so different from Latin ‘mille’ which found its way in the Romance languages (Italian, French, Spanish, etc). 

Latin ‘mille’ originally meant innumerable. Let’s face it, even though we’re talking billions and trillions now in this global village, a thousand is a lot of units. Similarly Germanic ‘tuschund’ probably meant ‘more than one hundred’ in the days that counting was an intellectual activity that must have cost a lot of energy.

In the Netherlands many politicians favour the expression: ‘laat duizend bloemen bloeien’ (let a thousand flowers bloom) meaning that everybody should be allowed his or her own freedom of speech. You hear it very often in debates when it is difficult to come to some kind of agreement.

What they forget is that the person who proclaimed these words for the first time was Chairman Mao Zedong. He didn’t say a ‘thousand’, no he said ‘a hundred flowers’. What he actually said in his speech in Peking in February 1957, was:

‘The policy of letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend is designed to promote the flourishing of the arts and the progress of science.’

We all know how ‘serious’ he was when he encouraged China’s citizens to openly express their opinions of the communist regime and to what terrible results it led.

Have you any Dutch words or expressions that you would like to share with the other 999 friends? We welcome them.