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Word of the day: Nederlands (Dutch)

April 10 was the Dutch Day of Deutsch which aimed to promote the study of German at schools and universities in the Netherlands. As discussed in the latest posting on ‘Duits’, the English called the language of the Lowlandish people ‘Dutch’ in the seventeenth century and they referred to the language of our eastern neighbours as ‘German’.

That’s why we are stuck in this confusing situation. Properly speaking the English should have called our nation ‘Dutchland’ instead of ‘the Netherlands’. It makes sense to say: ‘They speak German in Germany, French in France, Danish in Denmark, Norwegian in Norway, Swedish in Sweden, Finnish in Finland and Dutch in… Dutchland.’ The Netherlanders are the odd one out, because of ‘Dutch in the Netherlands’.

We could stop this confusing state of affairs by calling our language ‘Netherlandish’ from now on. Maybe the time has come to ask, request, even beg the English speaking world to rename the language and call it ‘Netherlandish’ and the inhabitants ‘Netherlanders’ from now on. It really makes sense to say: ‘The Germans speak German in Germany and the Netherlanders speak Netherlandish in the Netherlands’. Doesn’t it?

Let’s get rid of ‘Dutch’. The word has an unfavourable ring to it anyway. Except for cheese and bricks, everything nasty or obscene is called Dutch in English. This negative quality came into existence in the seventeenth century when the Netherlanders and the English were fighting over the question which nation should rule the waves. This competition led to several wars between our countries and the result was that the English started to hate the Hollanders. Funny, though that this reaction was not reciprocal. The Dutch never insulted their enemies by inventing nasty expressions containing ‘English’.

The Oxford English Dictionary has a list of phrases and expressions containing Dutch. Here are a few:

double Dutch, gibberish.
to do a Dutch (act) , to desert, escape, run away; to commit suicide.
to go Dutch, when each person pays for his own food, drink, etc.
Dutch nightingale , a frog.
Dutch wife, an open frame of ratan or cane used in the Dutch Indies, etc. to rest the limbs upon in bed (goeling) or a kind of life-size mechanical doll with built-in electric heating and all the other refinements.
Dutch auction, an auction by which an article is put up at a high price, and, if nobody accepts the offer, then reduced to a lower.
Dutch bargain, concluded by the parties drinking together.
Dutch concert, when several tunes are played together.
Dutch consolation, ‘thank heaven, it is no worse’
Dutch courage, bravery induced by drinking.
Dutch feast, where the entertainer gets drunk before his guests.
Dutch reckoning, a bad day’s work, all in the wrong.
Dutch uncle, someone who gives another a regular lecture.

So, be kind to the Netherlanders, and talk Netherlandish to them. ‘Spreek Nederlands met Nederlanders in Nederland!’