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Word of the Day: DWEPEN, idolize

There is no getting away from it… The streets and the houses are orange, people are dressed in orange and everywhere you look, you see orange flags with pictures of lions. All supermarkets hand out orange knickknacks and when the match is on there’s not a living soul to be seen in the streets. Yes, it’s that special time again, the time when the Dutch are allowed to be ‘dweepziek’ (fanatical). It’s World Cup time.


Football or soccer is the world’s new religion and the footballers are our new idols, our new gods. We idolize these heroes. The Dutch verb for ‘idolize’ is DWEPEN. Isn’t that a lovely word? Its sound expresses exactly what it means. /dwepən/ is how it is spelled phonetically but if you do not know this alphabet, say /dwaypen/, emphasis on the first syllable. The past tense is ‘dweepte’ and the perfect is ‘heeft gedweept’. It always goes together with the preposition ‘met’. So the English phrase:

‘The Dutchman idolizes Robin van Persie’. ->‘De Nederlander dweept met Robin van Persie’.

The word ‘dweepziek’ consists of two words: ‘dweep’ (which is from DWEPEN) and ‘ziek’ (sick or ill). When someone calls you ‘dweepziek’ you must have crossed the line of normalcy in your behaviour and people think you’re obsessed or fanatical.

It’s strange that the verb DWEPEN has no exact equivalent in English. And yet, I know that the English or the Americans can be just as ‘dweepziek’ as the Dutch. German has the equally lovely verb ‘schwärmen’ (für). The French use ‘adorer’ but this verb does not really match DWEPEN or German ‘schwärmen’ in my opinion. Or is there another French verb that expresses fanaticism?

DWEPEN has an unfavourable connotation but scholars say that it stems from the positive biological need to learn. Young children imitate the behaviour of the people they idolize, their parents. That’s how they learn. Apparently humans do not lose this quality when they grow up. When football lovers watch a match, they fantasize that they are out there in the field. They see themselves reflected in the movements of their heroes and DWEPEN is the result.

Someone who DWEEPS is not a ‘dweeb’. The American slang word ‘dweeb’ is not at all related to Dutch. The dictionary suggests that it is a combination of ‘dwarf’ and ‘feeb’. A ‘dweeb’ in Dutch is a ‘watje’ (lit. a wad of cotton wool), a ‘doetje’ (softy), an ‘eitje’ (lit. a little egg), a ‘sul’ (dope), or an ‘oen’ (dummy).

If you want to join the Dutch ‘dwepers’, it helps to know the song that the Dutch singer Jan Smit and the Dutch actor Johnny de Mol are singing for this World Cup. Everybody sing along! Here it is.


Het is tijd, we zijn er weer bij

Heel het land, staat klaar zij aan zij

Met vrienden of familie, in de kroeg of op het plein

Iedereen leeft voor Oranje, groot en klein

Het is tijd, we komen eraan

Laten onze leeuw niet in z’n hempie staan

We houden van Oranje, en strijden alsmaar door

Onze Vaderlandse helden gaan er voor


We schreeuwen onze leeuwen naar de beker

We zijn een groot oranje legioen

Met Bloed, Zweet en Tranen lukt het zeker

Nederland je bent de kampioen


(It is time, we are part of it again

The entire country is ready side by side

With friends or family, in the pub or in the square

Everyone lives for Orange, big or small


It is time, we are on our way

Don’t let our lion look foolish

We love Orange and will continue the fight

Our heroes of the fatherland are going for it


We will urge our lions to the cup

We are a large Orange legion

With Blood, Sweat and Tears we’ll surely succeed

Netherlands, you’re champion)