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October 29, 2013 8:01 AM   Subscribe

"The problem was that my colleague spoke in Dutch expressions haphazardly translated into his own unique English versions.
The result was a trail of bizarrely strung together words that senselessly hung in the air and required my constant nod and smile of approval/understanding. Many a mornings were spent hearing about cows being pulled out of ditches, tall tulips getting their heads chopped off and monkeys (yes, monkeys!).
" -- It may you the sausage be, but translating Dutch expressions into stonecoal English is just one of the many things Dutch people like. (Previously, on Sinterklaas.)

Other Dutch linguistic oddities worth a look are the importance of "lekker" in day to day conversation, why Dutch curses tend to be disease ridden and the sheer volume of names and things that sound ridiculous in English.

More generally, what you need to know to get along with the Dutch, and I don't hold you in front of the little piece of cloth, is how to celebrate birthdays at home or at work, enjoy licorice and patat met, handle the Dutch stairs and not get too upset by white leggings.

Then you can enjoy your stroopwafels, but only after you've eaten your daily recommended dose of herring and dairy products.
posted by MartinWisse (59 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
I need some new expressions. Oh well, peanut butter seems to fit nicely.
posted by tilde at 8:09 AM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


You're playing with my feet.
posted by Goofyy at 8:10 AM on October 29, 2013


This is great. Helaas, pindakaas seems a useful phrase.

Here are some from the Portuguese
posted by chavenet at 8:10 AM on October 29, 2013


I'm pretty enamored of "well now the monkey comes out of the sleeve" because it's pretty obvious what it means but you can basically just slot in any combination of absurdity and veil that you like in there and it'll work.
posted by invitapriore at 8:11 AM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's unfortunately peanut butter, actually.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:11 AM on October 29, 2013


meanwhile, what is "stonecoal English"?
posted by chavenet at 8:13 AM on October 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


Which is one of my little stopping words, when things do not go from a little slate roof.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:14 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


You had to mention zwarte piet...
posted by Pendragon at 8:15 AM on October 29, 2013


German has some nice farm-related ones:

"Die Kuh vom Eis holen." -- get the cow off the ice. Basically to "save the day", or to deal with the most important problem.

"Eierlegende Wollmilchsau" -- the egg-laying milkable pig, solves all problems for everybody (visualization by Wikipedia)
posted by sixohsix at 8:22 AM on October 29, 2013 [15 favorites]


the egg-laying milkable pig

Egg-laying, milkable wooly pig.
posted by jedicus at 8:23 AM on October 29, 2013 [11 favorites]


"well now the monkey comes out of the sleeve"

C'est une autre paire de manches
posted by IndigoJones at 8:23 AM on October 29, 2013


chavenet: “meanwhile, what is 'stonecoal English'?”

It's the language spoken by the famous wrestler, Stonecoal Steve Austen.
posted by koeselitz at 8:25 AM on October 29, 2013 [14 favorites]


A bittersweet post as I prepare to leave Amsterdam after my annual three month stint, to return to my little town at the end of the road in the northwest corner of the States.

Dankjewel Martin. Fijne dag.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:28 AM on October 29, 2013


Don't forget hagelslag. My wife's grandmother is Dutch, and eating hagelslag is the one Dutch thing she grew up doing. Which reminds me, it's bread-baking season again, which means more hagelslag for breakfast.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:30 AM on October 29, 2013


what is 'stonecoal English'?”

I was thinking it was the colorful language used by West Virginia miners.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:36 AM on October 29, 2013


I am interested in acquiring one of your egg-laying milkable pigs.
posted by shothotbot at 8:36 AM on October 29, 2013




Otherwise, "stone coal" is a common name for anthracite, a hard, compact variety of mineral coal that has a high luster.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:39 AM on October 29, 2013


Most of the ones that are described as incomprehensible make perfect sense to me. Obviously if the sky falls we would all be wearing blue hats; the sky is blue. The second is just as inevitable and/or impossible as the first, surely? And I think the September rain / December Christmas thing is equally clear. The second thing is guaranteed, so the first is as well. Or am I totally off and these mean nothing like what I would expect?

But anyway, this is a very tasty post.
posted by kyrademon at 8:40 AM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Coal or English or Dutch-speaking English. you do not know what I mean? it is not that difficult though. It's just bad english, translate, eg Dutch sentences verbatim by the result especially Geinig with expressions that do not exist in English. (Google auto-translation of at page in Dutch)

Oh, well, that clears it all up then!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:40 AM on October 29, 2013


This post is completely you of it, I jump a hole in the sky. MartinWisse is not the angriest! Where others are counting their buttons he has got hair on the teeth. If you can't pull an arrow on this or make cheese of it and you want to know what kind of meat you have in the tub because you heard it thundering in Cologne, don't sit down by the packs. Now I am participating for lard and beans but I have to come with something on the wads of course before MartinWisse gets completely lifted over the horse, so here's a little piece on disease-derived Dutch swears I moustached up from the Internet Archive. You may think this post strikes like a wrench on a pig, but many could suck a little point on it. If you disagree then you've got butter on the head, and I've got an apple to peel with you. Then the puppets will really be dancing! Until the prunetime!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:46 AM on October 29, 2013 [13 favorites]


Sorry, but that's an orangutan. Orangutans are apes, not monkeys. The expression makes a lot more sense if you take that into account.
posted by GodricVT at 8:48 AM on October 29, 2013


This would be a great place to link to a comment about Dutch comedian Philip Walkate. One of the funniest things I have ever seen, and I don't even speak Dutch.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:49 AM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Orangutans are apes, not monkeys. The expression makes a lot more sense if you take that into account.

And avoids a whole bunch of violence.
posted by eriko at 8:49 AM on October 29, 2013


Stonecoal = stone cold? As in "stone cold sober?"

It would seem to be (also) a misheard term and thus incorrectly repeated, like "doggy dog" for "dog eat dog."
posted by datawrangler at 8:49 AM on October 29, 2013


The expression makes a lot more sense if you take that into account.

The expression on the monkey's face is actually pretty easy to decipher.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:50 AM on October 29, 2013


I was on a call with a non-native English speaker earlier this month who used the phrase, "...like a strong donkey with a machine gun."

In the four weeks since, I've come realize that the phrase is more applicable than you'd think.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 9:00 AM on October 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


if you read it is useful if you heeeeeeeeel (good) English can! you probably know him "the italian man who went to malta".
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:03 AM on October 29, 2013


That's like a cow handling a musket, right?
posted by MartinWisse at 9:04 AM on October 29, 2013


There's more than one way to milk an egg.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:07 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am going to go have some toast with hailstones on it.
posted by dhens at 9:12 AM on October 29, 2013


"Oh well, peanut butter" looks like you could translate it "alas, sassafras" to keep the rhyme.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:14 AM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


This post will give me something interesting to read during the Cucumber Time.
posted by dhens at 9:19 AM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


patat met zonder

...en een koffie verkeerd.
posted by Zerowensboring at 9:21 AM on October 29, 2013


the egg-laying milkable pig, solves all problems for everybody

Al Capp did something like this with the Schmoo .
posted by brujita at 9:30 AM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


This post is completely you of it, I jump a hole in the sky.

Well, it's a good thing I kept a little eye in the sail. This is not for the puss! Goodnewsfortheinsane you have to keep in the holes, but it's clear he's not for one hole to catch. In Dunglish he knows where Abraham got the mustard, but it's fortunate that MeFi doesn't have a lick on broke policy about bad English, or we'd been both caught in the collar.

Anyway, I won't keep you on the little line for much longer, as I have to polish the plate, or we have the dolls dancing (the metaphorical dolls of course).
posted by MartinWisse at 9:32 AM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wait, I said that the only Dutch thing my wife grew up with was hagelslag, which isn't true. We very strictly observe the rule of opgestaan, plaats vergaan.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:48 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stonecoal = stone cold?

No. The original dutch expression for this kind of (mis)translations is "steenkolen-engels" where "steenkolen" is coal, but is here translated with the exact right mind set as "stone coal".

I sometimes abuse the whole phenomenon by doing the same with french and saying "allez votre corridor" which, if you translate each word back to dutch separately gets to "ga uw gang", which means "go ahead".

Tends to confuse the heck out of people...
posted by DreamerFi at 10:00 AM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


allez votre corridor

So, so nicked.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:04 AM on October 29, 2013


From Globally Speaking: Motives for Adopting English Vocabulary in Other Languages:

'The English speaker will puzzle over the word stonecoal as modifier of the noun English. It is only after consultation with native speakers of Dutch that one will arrive at the conclusion that one of the images 'steenkool' evokes in the Dutch mind is that of broken pieces of coal.'
posted by heatvision at 10:13 AM on October 29, 2013


Meanwhile, the expression "I can't wrap my head around it" is perfectly obvious and straightforward and not baffling at all.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 10:20 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm so confused right now.
posted by Sara C. at 10:26 AM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


My father-in-law is great for these, but he's Austrian not Dutch - I suspect that doing direct translations of many of these types of sayings from their original language into English would results in similar confusion/absurdities.

One of my favorites of his - "People are like potatoes, only less round."

He has another one that is something to the effect of the chicken not starting the day counting its eggs, only its chicks. I'll have to get him to tell it to me again.

My mother is Dutch (well, Friesian) and she has one I also like - "It matters not to the farmer if the shit is from the bull or the cow". In the original Friesian, it rhymes, which is even better.
posted by nubs at 11:00 AM on October 29, 2013


Three-quarters of the comments on this post make me want to play Star Control 2 again. And THAT makes me a *happy camper*.
posted by hanov3r at 11:26 AM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


He has another one that is something to the effect of the chicken not starting the day counting its eggs, only its chicks. I'll have to get him to tell it to me again.

Don't count your chickens before they're hatched?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:41 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well if we're sharing - The Devil isn't the Devil because he's the Devil - it's because he's old.
posted by tilde at 11:43 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is how I feel right now.
posted by frimble at 11:43 AM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Don't count your chickens before they're hatched?

That would be the sentiment of it, yes, but the direct translation has a poetry to it that I can't quite capture. I found it interesting because it appears to be an example of these types of sayings that is very similar in meaning across the language barrier, but yet expressed much more wonderfully.
posted by nubs at 11:49 AM on October 29, 2013


"Eierlegende Wollmilchsau" -- the egg-laying milkable wooly pig, solves all problems for everybody.

Forget my next band name, I want this on my next box of business cards!
posted by wenestvedt at 11:55 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


For those of you not yet knowing what gezellig means, let’s get one thing straight: this word has NO accurate English translations.

I like words like this, these are like fractions between the whole numbers of universally accepted words. It's like when the the Dutch say "doei" and the Belgians smile at them.
posted by three blind mice at 11:56 AM on October 29, 2013


Oh, these Dutch and their house garden and kitchen English. I must keep that in the holes, or it will run out of the sluice holes.
posted by Namlit at 1:25 PM on October 29, 2013


sixohsix: "German has some nice farm-related ones:

"Die Kuh vom Eis holen." -- get the cow off the ice. Basically to "save the day", or to deal with the most important problem.
"
Huh, interesting. Danish has "there's no cow on the ice", meaning there is no problem, everything's fine. Evidently cows breaking through ice and drowning must have been a major problem in northern Germany and southern Denmark way back when.
DreamerFi: "I sometimes abuse the whole phenomenon by doing the same with french ..."
I have a habit of translating English sayings (many of which Danes are using in their English form in day to day conversations) into literal Danish. That also makes for a lot of fun.
posted by brokkr at 3:00 PM on October 29, 2013


Stroopwafels are made from two very thin layers of baked batter with a caramel-like filling in the middle.

Stroopwafels are made of an entire stick of butter each and crack and there is not one in my mouth right now and I am upset.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:54 PM on October 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think this is one of the small joys of knowing two languages. The most infamous Spanish example is from lost to the river, which I still don't, and I suspect never will, understand, now matter how often it is explained to me. But it will never lose its absurd hilarity.

Curses are also great fun to translate literally. I shit myself in the milk!
posted by lollymccatburglar at 1:57 AM on October 30, 2013


what is 'stonecoal English'?”

"The Dutch word for the poorest form of Dunglish is Steenkolenengels ("Coal English"). This term goes back to the early twentieth century when Dutch port workers used a rudimentary form of English to communicate with the personnel of English coal ships." (Wikipedia)
posted by mirthe at 7:50 AM on October 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


The one with the names is fun. "Ms. Born naked" indeed!
posted by Omnomnom at 2:06 PM on October 30, 2013


Yeah, but isn't that true of all names?

My last name happens to be an somewhat obscure word for the very thing I do for a living.
posted by Sara C. at 2:25 PM on October 30, 2013


Three-quarters of the comments on this post make me want to play Star Control 2 again. And THAT makes me a *happy camper*.
posted by hanov3r at 2:26 PM on October 29 [3 favorites −]


So ... Dutch is not *many bubbles*, Dutch is one with many *fingers*?

*Frumple*.

It is the *dancing*!
posted by McCoy Pauley at 7:40 PM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


A conversation yesterday with Goodnewsfortheinsane jogged my memory, so here are some Denglisch ones that I've run across:
  • Heavy on the Woodway
  • Press (or Hide) your Thumb
  • Burned Children avoid Fire
  • Hello together!
I'm not 100% convinced, though, that a human has actually said, "I think I spider" in response to confusion or shock. I hear it used as an example of things said when thinking in German and speaking English, but it really feels more like a machine translation error.
posted by frimble at 12:25 AM on October 31, 2013


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