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Word of the day: naakt (nude)

With a little help of Rembrandt the etcher and Bomans the author I think I now know the difference between BLOOT and NAAKT. Both words are medieval (first recorded in the 13th century according to Nicoline van der Sijs) and mean‘uncovered’ or ‘unclothed’. 

When Adam and Eve were living their lives of leisure in heavenly Eden, they had no clothes on, and they had no idea that they were naked. The subtle (listig in Dutch) serpent spoilt everything for them. The serpent said to Eve: Eat the fruit from the one forbidden tree and your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And Eve gave the fruit to Adam and their eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked.

Then God who was taking an afternoon stroll in his garden of Eden could not find Adam who was hiding in shame and said: ‘Where are you?’. Adam then answered honestly but stupidly: ‘I was afraid, because I was naked.’ In the Dutch Bible it says: ‘ik vreesde; want ik ben naakt’. And God then knew that they had eaten the forbidden fruit. And God’s punishment was ghastly and the unfortunate fruit eaters and all their posterity lived unhappily ever after.

So, according to the Bible, knowledge of good and evil is a precondition for awareness of being naked. At first humans were like the other animals with no such awareness. From the moment Eve and Adam had eaten the fruit they became as gods, knowing good and evil. Knowing that you’re naked apparently makes you evil and in order to be good the flesh has to be covered up. Knowledge of being NAAKT (naked) makes you feel BLOOT (nude).

In Rembrandt’s etch we can see this shift in awareness taking place. We witness the introduction of BLOOT. BLOOT is knowing that someone is ashamedly NAAKT. In Alex van Warmerdam’s first feature film called ‘Abel’ (1986) there is a scene in which we see scores of men going down an escalator to a peepshow which is called ‘Naakte Meisjes’. This is a euphemistic title, because we really expect these horny men to pay for the spectacle of nude girlies, BLOTE MEISJES.

Bomans who discussed Marlene Dietrich’s naked BEEN (leg) in yesterday’s posting at the Grand Gala du Disque in 1963, knows exactly what the difference is between BLOOT and NAAKT. When Erik on his journey in the land of the insects arrives at Hotel The Snail’s Shell all the insects who are guests of this hotel flock together to have a look at him having a bath. Here is the original text with a translation.

Een bijzondere gebeurtenis was het ook wanneer Erik op zaterdagavond naar bad ging. Allen stonden dan om de kuip om te zien hoe hij zijn hansop en broekje uittrok. Dat men zijn vel naar believen kon afstropen was reeds op zich iets merkwaardigs, maar dat men er dan nog eentje overhield, daar konden zij maar niet over uitgepraat raken. ‘Waarom loopt u niet in uw tweede vel?’ vroegen zij, ‘het is veel mooier en bovendien past het veel beter. Het eerste slobbert zomaar wat om u heen, terwijl het andere u als gegoten zit.’
‘Het mag niet,’ zei Erik, ‘het is onzedelijk.’
‘Wat is dat: onzedelijk?’ vroeg de slak.
‘Onzedelijk is als men bloot is,’ antwoordde Erik.
‘Dus ik ben onzedelijk?’ vroeg de slak. Ook de andere dieren keken zeer beteuterd.
‘Ja, precies weet ik het ook niet,’ zei Erik dan altijd. ‘Ik weet alleen dat het bij een mens in elk geval onzedelijk is, behalve als je in bad zit of pasgeboren bent. Dan mag het.’

(It was another big event when Erik took a bath on Saturday evening. They all stood around the tub and watched him take off his sleeping suit and underpants. To be able to peel off one’s skin as one pleases was odd in itself, but to be left with another one, was something they could not stop talking about. ‘Why don’t you go about in your second skin?’ they asked, ‘it is much nicer and moreover it is a much better fit. The first one is baggy and hangs around your body, while the second one fits you like a glove. 
‘It is not allowed,’Erik zaid, ‘it is indecent.’
‘What is that: indecent?’ the snail asked.
‘Indecent is when one is nude,’ Erik answered.
‘So I am indecent?’ the snail asked. The other animals looked very dismayed.
‘Yes, I don’t really know exactly,’ Erik used to say. ‘I only know that for a man it is indecent in any case, except when you’re in bath or newly born. Then it is allowed.’)

So BLOOT is indecent and NAAKT is when you don’t know what indecent is.