Friday, January 15, 2010


Frequent readers will have noted that this blogger occasionally has it up to here with his fellow Dutch speakers. Often this is due to having read the comments underneath articles in Dutch newspapers. Seldom a good idea.

Dutch is a marvelous language, richly evocative, eloquent, and expressive.

It is also quite likely the language spoken in hell, as it is venomously mean-spirited, vitriolic, and vile. If the devil speaks a human tongue, it is undoubtedly Dutch.
Satan probably gets along very well with both Vondel and Brederode, as well as a host of lesser poets. Much of their audience have ended up in his domain over the centuries. Deservedly so.


Still, I have a lot of affection for the noble Dutch language, and really wish that my readers would learn it.

To that end, I intend to regularly post sample sentences lifted from my daily internet-peruse, with translations and annotations. As time progresses, you will undoubtedly become familiar with Dutch and its speakers, even to the point where you can understand how they think.


Today's samples come from the comments underneath an article about a seven year old New Jersey boy whose name occurs on the terrorist watch-list.
[This article:,2 ]

"En dan ben je trots dat je een amerikaan bent. Wat een raar land."
Translation: And then you are proud that you are an American. What an odd country.

NOTE: Being proud of one's country is something of which Europeans are incapable.

"Wat zijn ze toch weer hysterisch bezig, die domme Amerikanen."
Translation: How hysterically they are at it again, those stupid Americans.

NOTE: Hysterically, in this context does not mean funny, but ridiculous and panicked. The implication of the sentence is that acting like headless chickens is a natural state for us Americans.
Europeans, especially the Dutch, are phlegmatic.

"Dit geeft aan hoe dom, naief en doorgeslagen die Amerikanen zijn."
Translation: This indicates how stupid, ignorant, and exaggeratedly ridiculous those Americans are.

NOTE: From this it is obvious in what regard the writer of the comment holds Americans. The belief that Americans are impossibly stupid and ignorant is fairly common in Europe - many US veterans no doubt remember the sneers of superiority on the faces of the freshly liberated peasants lining the roads from Normandy through France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, into Germany. Europeans today are as aware that they are culturally superior to Americans as once they were certain that Europeans were racially superior to Africans, Asians, and other non-whites.
In the modern age, such racialism is no longer acceptable (even if still very much alive) in Europe, but looking down on Yankees is always fashionable and au courant. Even hip.

"Het land is zo fout als mogelijk, mede door al die gristen radicalen."
Translation: The country is as wrong as possible, in part due to all those Christian radicals.

NOTE: Apparently there are no Christians in the Netherlands anymore. Hence the natural misapprehension that America must be nothing but Christians, nutball fundamentalists at that. All the fine churches in Dutch cities and villages, whose elegant spires frequently mark distant settlements on the horizon, are now merely decorative souvenirs of a forgotten past. Today's sober Dutchman has little truck with faith.

"Die Amerikanen sporen echt niet...."Translation: Those Americans don't track at all...

NOTE: To track is a Dutch expression indicating that regular norms are in effect - the person described as not tracking is thinking incorrectly, over-reacting, and possibly demented.
It is a commonly held belief in parts of the world that Americans are afflicted with an inability to act like rational people. Americans, in Dutch, do not track.

"Rare jongens die Yanks!"Translation: Strange fellows those Yanks!

NOTE: Think nothing of it - to the Dutch, all foreigners are strange.

"En als je kinderen zo nodig Donald Duck en Mickey Mouse willen, de enige amerikaanse cultuur, kijk dan TV of ga naar Eurodisney."
Translation: And if your kids absolutely have to have Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse, that being all there is to American culture, just watch teevee or go to Eurodisney.

NOTE: Most Europeans have never read any American literature, as Faulkner, Hemmingway, Flannery O'Connor, Steinbeck, Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton, and all those others were irrelevant dead white men not worth translating into any civilized languages. Mark Twain, as is well-known, was an escapee from an insane-asylum outside of Dortmund, whereas Gertrude Stein was a unwashed refugee graciously accepted by the French, like Edgar Allan Poe before her.
In point of fact, there is no American literature - Americans have no original thoughts whatsoever.

"Die idioten uit de verenigde staten, americanen noemen is een belediging voor de rest van de bewoners van het continent America. Het land zonder naam, jajajajaja, wat een trieste boel. America is een continent en geen land, americanen zijn ook alle Columbianen, en Chilenen en Brazilianen, Surinamers etc etc. "Translation: Those idiots from the United States, calling them Americans is an insult to the other inhabitants of the American continent. The country without a name, suuuuuuure, what a pathetic affair. America is a continent, not a country; Americans are also all Columbians, and Chileans, and Brazilians, Surinamers, etc. etc.

NOTE: Technically the writer of these brilliant words IS correct - all inhabitants of the Americas are Americans, just like all inhabitants of Europe are foreigners. And it is very impressive that he can actually name several of the countries on this side of the Atlantic. That's the benefit of a continental education. Most of my fellow Americans cannot even name Canada or Cuba, let alone that long list of places in South-America........
See, we aren't into soccer very much, and in consequence have scant reason to figure out where the people we intend to hate today are from. Nor do we have as much experience colonizing, exploiting, and exterminating as the Europeans.
So our ignorance of the world is quite understandable. Regrettable, but understandable.

Tune in next week for more illustrative examples. This will be a regular series on this blog.
Everybody should learn Dutch.


Vincent said...

Zeer interessante tekstjes! Ik spreek zelf Nederlands en ben toevallig je blog tegengekomen. Je legt het allemaal heel mooi uit! Proficiat!
Vind je het Nederlands echt zo'n mooie taal?

The back of the hill said...

Natuurlijk vind ik Nederlands een schone taal!

En die taal is gezegend geweest met een rijkheid aan dichters.....
Om maar te noemen, Jacob Israel de Haan, Henk Fedder, Jacobus Bellamy, Jan Prins, Willem Brandt, Willem Frederik Hermans, Patty Scholten, Karel van de Woestijne, Constantyn Huygens, Jacobus Revius, Willem de Merode, Simon Vestdijk, Hermanus van den Burg, Joost van den Vondel, Jan van der Noot, Bertus Aafjes...... enz.

Tevens schrijvers van enig mate. Nu nog herlees ik de stukjes van de dikke man, alzook de boeken van Jan Fabricius met veel plezier.

The back of the hill said...

Kijk, wat dichterij betreft is Nederlands eigenlijk een veel betere taal dan Engels... vaak, wanneer ik Engelse gedichten lees, overkomt mij het gevoel dat het louter doggerel is. Nederlands werkt qua versificatie toch beter.

The back of the hill said...

Tevens zijn de kerkliederen van Petrus Datheen en Marnix van St. Aldegonde ongeevenaarde poezie. Daar kan de Staten Berijming echt niet tegenop. Prachtig taalgebruik.

The back of the hill said...

En om het maar weer terug naar de begane grond te brengen, de vertalingen van Asterix en Obelix zijn in het Nederlands stukken vermakelijker dan in het Engels zelfs mogelijk is.

Unknown said...

Unfortunately, our president has the same opinion of America and Americans as do the Dutch. A choleria on both.


Anonymous said...

very useful article. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did you learn that some chinese hacker had hacked twitter yesterday again.

The back of the hill said...

Ach, my dear Anonymous, I do not use twitter.
In that respect, I am a Luddite. Blogging is severely old-school, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

Nor do we have as much experience colonizing, exploiting, and exterminating as the Europeans.

Actually, the various Indian Nations, not to mention the Filipinos, might disagree with that statement.

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