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Word of the day: keuken (kitchen)

Why such a mundane word as KEUKEN for today’s Word of the Day? I’ll tell you. ‘De Keukenhof’ has opened its gates. What used to be a garden with herbs for a medieval kitchen, is now a place where people go to admire the colours and scents of tulips and other flowers.

And…. yesterday Jet posted a short YouTube documentary from the early forties which demonstrates how gramophone records were recorded and produced.

Lovely film but what I found more interesting is the catchy, jazzy tune that is being recorded. In the film we see the song being performed by the popular Dutch dance band The Ramblers, which was founded in 1926 and is still going strong. According to the Guinness Book of Records it is the oldest dance orchestra in the world.

Facebook Friends, watch this short film. It is not only very entertaining, it’s also of great use to students of Dutch. Unlike today’s voices, this voice is wonderfully clear and articulated.

The song is called ‘’k heb een keukentje’ (I have a little kitchen) and recounts the rambler’s decision to install a little kitchen in his house, apparently a new-fashioned step to take for single men in those days. Below, you’ll find the complete text of the song with a translation.

Back to the KEUKEN (the kitchen). Very often when I mention this word in one of my lessons, I hear a snigger That is because students are reminded of a vulgar word that rhymes with KEUKEN. Apparently there are lots of Dutch people who deem it funny to teach this nasty childish rhyme to innocent newcomers. It is as if they want to say: welcome to the language of frustrated Dutchies.

In fact, when push comes to shove, this word is extremely normal and everyday, but I cannot use this word here because my FB censors will immediately punish me with another warning. Certain words and pictures are taboo on Facebook. Weird development.

Though the luxury KEUKEN with its fridge, sink, stove, dishwasher and many cabinets is a twentieth century addition to our middle-classy miniature castles, the word itself is ancient. The Old English ‘cycene’, Old German ‘kukina’ or ‘chuhhîna’ and Middle Dutch ‘kuekene’ all go back to the Latin noun ‘cucīna’ and its verb ‘coquĕre’ (cook).

So KEUKEN and ‘koken’ (English cook, Gerrman ‘kochen’) are related. According to Nicoline van der Sijs’ Etymologiebank the word was introduced by third of fourth century Romans who had colonized these wet, cold and marshy lowlands. The native Germanic tribes had no use for such a word because they never had any special rooms for cooking in. Monasteries and castles developed the concept of the kitchen and as time went by and more and more people could afford designated spaces in their houses for cooking. Now KEUKEN is so commonplace that a home cannot be a home without a KEUKENTJE.

‘k heb een keukentje

‘k Heb me weten aan te passen bij de nieuwe tijd 
‘k Ben een kamer kwijt, maar ik heb geen spijt 
Want ook is mijn wereldje gedeeltelijk ontwricht 
Ik heb een leegstaand keukentje gerieflijk ingericht 

Ik heb een keukentje en een fornuis 
Dat is m’n kamertje, dat is m’n thuis 
Maar ‘t allerbest menu wordt geen succes 
‘k Mis in m’n keukentje alleen nog een prinses 

(lyrics: Nico Splinter/music: Jack Bulterman/performance Wim Poppink with The Ramblers 1941)

I have a little kitchen

I managed to adapt myself to modern times
I lost a room, but there is no regret
For even if my world is partially disrupted
I comfortably furnished an empty little kitchen

I have a little kitchen and a stove
That is my little room, that is my home
But the best of all menus won’t be a success
When my little kitchen still lacks a princess