Hush! It’s so quiet at the office. So still. No sound and very little activity. It is the one but last day of the year. There are no courses between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Avril has gone to her family in her native Ireland. Not a sound from Petra, so she must be on holidays too. Zsuzsa is probably playing at home with her son Noah. Yolande is roaming around Japan with her friend Charis. Pieter is catching up on his studies. And where the others are? I haven’t the foggiest. Downstairs, Robyn is answering the mail and somewhere in the office there are two painters at work. The names of these industrious workers are Gerard and Anno and they are prettying up our windows and fixing the wooden stairs. The office is ‘still’ (quite) and I am sitting here ‘still’ (motionless).
Yes, here I am all alone upstairs in my library where I am supposed to be revising the Direct Dutch course book. Except for this moment. Because, as you can see, I have started on a new Word of the Day. Yes, I know. I have not been writing new words for several months now since September. I feel slightly guilty.
Since January 2013 I had written over 350 short and sometimes not so short pieces for our Facebook page and for our Direct Dutch Daily website. Did you know that you can consult all of them there? Go to http://www.directdutch.com/ and insert a word in the search engine on top. You’ll be guided to an article.
What are the origins are of Dutch STIL (quiet) and English ‘still’, I wondered. Dutch STIL has several meanings. Its first meaning according to Van Dale is ‘quiet’, ‘silent’, ‘mute’ or ‘hushed’. The second meaning is ‘motionless’. English ‘still’ also has these two meanings. But… the first meaning of ‘still’ in the Oxford English Dictionary is ‘motionlessness’ and its second meaning is ‘silence’.
STIL is an ancient word in Dutch. It was first written down in the early ninth century as part of the name of a place in Gelderland called ‘Stillinhahagamundi’. This name probably meant ‘still water estuary’. So STIL probably meant ‘motionlessness’ before it referred to ‘quietude’. Sounds logical to me.
The word STIL has so many secrets, hidden meanings and allusions. In Dutch as in English ‘still waters run deep’: ‘stille wateren hebben diepe gronden’ (lit. still waters have deep grounds). I love the word STIL. So I am going to keep quiet now for a few moments, but not before I have wished you and all your loved ones a great new year. Don’t be still in 2015, SPREEK NEDERLANDS! MET NEDERLANDERS! We’ll be there to help you.