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Word of the day: neerslachtig (blue)

Last week I overheard many people talking about Blue Monday. And now this doomsday has arrived. Allegedly, January 20th, 2014 is the most depressing day of the year. The words the Dutch associate with Blue Monday are: ‘depri’, ‘down’, ‘depressief’, ‘bedroefd’….
Like Valentine’s day this new blue phenomenon must have been invented by marketeers for commercial reasons. Once you feel lousy, you’re inclined to spoil yourself and spend money on luxury things.

True or not, in this time of year, I must admit, I too feel slightly blue. And I blame this blues on the new year with its short hours of daylight and the long dark winter hours.

Blues. Funny word. Where does it come from? From African-American musicians who created a new music form which uses flatted thirds and sevenths?
Maybe, but why did these musicians associate an intense feeling of melancholia with the uplifting colour of the sky and the sea? Why not red? Or black? Or green?

Zij is blauw’ does not mean that she is bluesily depressed but drunk as a skunk. But if she is ‘van de blauwe knoop’ (belongs to the blue button), she has signed the pledge of sobriety.

To have ‘blauw bloed’ is to be of noble descent.
De politicus ergert zich blauw’ literally means that the politician is so annoyed that he is seething…
But will his face look blue with anger? No, usually when you’re blue in the face you’re blue with cold (blauw van de kou). And if you missed the train and had to stay overnight at an expensive hotel, you probably paid through the nose. In Dutch: ‘je hebt je blauw betaald.’ Again, why blue?

Blue Monday… The Dutch have the expression: ‘blauwe maandag’, but it has a completely different meaning. ‘Hij heeft daar een blauwe maandag gewerkt’ means that he worked there only for a very short time.

Some people who don’t like Mondays call this day a ‘baaldag’ (an off-day).

Let’s make this blue ‘baaldag’ a day to remember. Let’s take a good look at the word NEERSLACHTIG (depressed), which I deem a true pearl of the Dutch language. It is very rarely used nowadays, because English words like ‘depri’ or ‘blue’ are taking its place.

NEERSLACHTIG is a combination of ‘neer’ (down) and ‘slachtig’ which is derived from the verb ‘slaan’ (strike). In the Golden Age (17th century) it literally meant ‘to be struck down’ and denoted ‘humility’ and ‘submissiveness’. In those days the church demanded humble behaviour of sinners. This attitude must have stirred up feelings of depression. So NEERSLACHTIG developed into an intensely blue feeling.

For me the only remedy for NEERSLACHTIGHEID (dejection) is to listen to talented jazz musicians who are good at expressing even more low spirits. So on this Blue Monday I’ll listen to Gretchen Parlato singing ‘Blue in Green’ from her album ‘The Lost and Found’. Here are the depressive lyrics of the song which will make you feel elated:

hues of blue and green surround me 

knowing you have found another love 
has turned my world to sorrow

green with envy for another 
fearing she may be the one 
to soar through life with you 

can’t lose these hues of blue in green