Over the last few weeks several of our Facebook friends asked me about FIETS. The word that has become the metaphor for the Netherlands, just like TULP (tulip), KLOMP (wooden shoe) or MOLEN (windmill).
Such a common word and, yet on closer inspection, so weird. Our daily BOTERHAM refers to a piece or a slice of bread. It is sometimes translated as sandwich, but mistakenly so. A sandwich is two slices of bread with something in between. As the BOTER (butter) indicates, a BOTERHAM used to be a slice of buttered bread. But that is no longer so. BOTERHAM is a piece of bread sliced off a loaf with or without butter.
‘Have you ever thought about LOL?’ Robyn asked yesterday evening in our coffee break. Robyn is a very enthusiastic teacher who shares my love for words. Every time I see her, she comes up with a new word that we should investigate: ‘Dus, griep, bijzonder….’ I cannot keep up with her.
STEM, the voice is the source of all languages and of all the words that we communicate with. In Old English it was ‘stefn’ or ‘stemn’. Somehow the English lost their Germanic STEM in history and now they are ‘voicing’ it. ‘Voice’ going back to French ‘voix’ and Latin ‘vox’.
Many Dutch breakfasters start the day with a ‘boterham met HAGELSLAG’. For lunch these sweettooths break the day with another one. And so does Kolja, I presume, for he is the one who asked us where the word HAGELSLAG comes from. Thanks Kolja!
Petra who asked us the other day about SINAASAPPEL (orange) also wanted to know more about the word SCHATJE. To say that someone is a SCHATJE is okay. But as a form of address I absolutely dislike it. If my loved one were to call me SCHATJE, I would immediately leave her and never come back. But that is probably because I am a man and Dutch.
Yes I agree, Zsuzsa, LUIER is a strange word. It is so common and yet so unique. When you were changing Noah’s nappy for the umpteenth time, you were probably wondering about the origins of the word. I can see you standing there with the dirty thing in your hand, thinking: ‘LUIER, nappy, napkin, diaper, pamper….’ How do they connect?
Each day my breakfast consists of a bowl of muesli with low-fat milk and a glass of orange juice. It makes me feel good and healthy. And I must have millions of ‘food mates’ all over the world eating and feeling the same. Unbelievable that there were times when this kind of breakfast was, to say the least, unusual.
Yes, the new Pope thanked the Dutch florists for the 40,000 free flowers (including 3,000 white Avalanche roses) after having said ‘urbi et orbi’ today. But no, this Pope did not express his gratitude in Dutch as his predecessors were accustomed to. This year no ‘Bedankt voor de bloemen’ (‘thanks for the flowers’). He said it in Italian. This year Pope Francis broke a tradition which started 28 years ago. What a shame. Next year we hope he studied some Dutch (you know where…).
Why does the English language have a bunny (KONIJN) for Easter and why is it a hare (HAAS) in all other languages? Very relevant questions that Anne-Marie posed on the day that the musical The Passion wound its way through the streets of The Hague.
De zon schijnt dus het is tijd voor een GLIMLACH! The sun is shining so it’s time for a smile. EEN GLIMLACH, smile is laughter without a sound. A sign of joy, happiness!
‘To make that noise which sudden merriment excites’, writes Samuel Johnson in his 18th century dictionary. However, LACHEN, laughter is so much more than mere noises ranging from calm giggles to loud guffaws. LACHEN is a visual expression of cheerfulness as well.
Spring is late in The Hague. The previous week was one of the coldest March periods in a long, long time. All those birds that had been warbling merrily that spring had finally arrived, have now shut their bills and beaks. It is HUFTERIG WEER (chilly weather) as the West Frisians say.
Some people hate these city birds, others love them. Jacqueline, for instance, cannot stand their loud cooing at break of day when they wake her up. And on top of that her balcony is covered with DUIVENPOEP, ‘dove droppings’. Every year there is a romantic couple outside her bedroom window. And soon there will be more of them.
This week it’s DE BOEKENWEEK, the national book week. A very succesful campaign to promote HET BOEK. It was started in the 1930’s in the Netherlands and is still going strong. Each year an author of name and fame is asked to write HET BOEKENWEEKGESCHENK, the book week gift. This year’s author is Hague born author and comedian Kees van Kooten (1941). His short novel is a witty search for the story behind his father’s binoculars.