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Word of the day: gedeisd (quiet)

‘Hou je gedeisd!’ (Keep quiet; keep a low profile!) This is a phrase you would expect in a whodunit or crime story. Imagine the following scene. 


Police detective De Cock is shadowing a lowlife whom he suspects of having strangled his deceitful girlfriend who worked for him as a hooker. The pimp has returned to the scene of the crime. He had lost his lighter while struggling with the scantily clad woman. Just when the pimp is about to find the incriminating piece of evidence, De Cock’s awkward side-kick sergeant Vledder barges in. De Cock quickly grabs him by the shoulder and mouths ‘Hou je gedeisd!’

But it is too late. The pimp aims his gun, shoots at the policemen, grabs the lighter and escapes through the dark alleys of the Walletjes, the red-light district in Amsterdam.

You’ll never know how this crime story ends, because I made it up. The names of De Cock and Vledder, however, are not my invention. They are well-known in the Netherlands because they belong to two popular detectives in television series and whodunits based on the stories by the author Albert ‘Appie’ Baantjer (1923-2010). In the Netherlands he is simply known as Baantjer.

If you follow this link, you can see one of many episodes of the Baantjer series. It is called: ‘Een enge moord’ (A scary murder)

Whatever you may think of this Dutch Inspector Morse series, it is entertaining because it is set in Amsterdam and if you’re learning Dutch you can learn a lot of idioms.

The phrase ‘Hou je gedeisd’ was suggested to me by my old father Jules who was born two years before Appie Baantjer and who is still very much alive and self-reliant.

Last Saturday he came to me for his weekly visit with a list of phrases which he deemed to be of use to learners of Dutch and to Dutch speakers too. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll deal with my father’s phrases.

‘Hou je gedeisd’ comes from the verb ‘deizen’ (to be quiet) which is not in use anymore. At least I have never heard anyone say: ‘Deis je!’ (Be quiet). Originally it is ‘bargoens’ ((thieves’ slang). According to Nicoline van der Sijs in her masterly Groot Leenwoordenboek (Van Dale, 2005, p. 279, a study of Dutch words borrowed from other languages) GEDEISD is the only Yiddish-Portuguese word that the Sephardic Jews gave to the Dutch language in the 17th century. In Portuguese they still say: ‘Deixe por os pequeños’ (Quiet, think of the children).

Do you know where the statue in the photo is situated? This work of ceramic art was made by Hague artist Berry Holslag (1947) for a new police station in Voorburg in the nineties. In popular speech it is called ‘De speurder’ (the detective).

This detective with its concrete shadow reminds me of the whodunits by a once very popular author from Friesland, called Havank, (1904-1964). This crime writer (his real name was Hans van der Kallen, hence Ha van K) published over 30 crime-novels and stories. One of his principal characters was nick-named ‘de Schaduw’ (the Shadow). I read his books when I was a teenager, because my father had them in his bookcase. Some of his books are still in print.

In the Direct Dutch Institute you’ll never hear our teachers say: ‘Hou je gedeisd, because they want their students to speak Dutch.