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When Dutch and English Collide
July 30, 2014 3:24 PM   Subscribe


 
‘The parking deck is not an emergency exit’
A terrible passive sentence that says nothing about what you should do.


There is a law of language criticism somewhere which states that those who criticize the mistakes of others will be mercilessly criticized for their mistakes in turn.
posted by Thing at 3:33 PM on July 30 [6 favorites]


As a Dutch expat, I love this stuff. Just wish this blog had more than 10 entries.
posted by monospace at 4:02 PM on July 30


There is that odd feeling of being an anglophone in the Netherlands and reading perfectly normal Dutch signage and *almost* understanding it.
posted by The Whelk at 4:04 PM on July 30 [6 favorites]


I fok horses (fourth bullet point).
posted by Earthtopus at 4:07 PM on July 30 [4 favorites]


Tariff's perfectly fine on that first one surely.
posted by dng at 4:08 PM on July 30 [2 favorites]


Oh, there's also a Wikipedia article that's not bad. (Found via Earthtopus' awesome linky.)
posted by Michele in California at 4:20 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]


‘The parking deck is not an emergency exit’
A terrible passive sentence that says nothing about what you should do.


...immediately preceded by a sentence explaining exactly what to do.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:22 PM on July 30


dng: "Tariff's perfectly fine on that first one surely."

Yup, perfectly standard English usage.
posted by Pinback at 4:43 PM on July 30


I believe tariff used that way is common in the UK, but not the US. It's still not wrong, but that may explain the confusion.
posted by tau_ceti at 4:55 PM on July 30


When I was in Amsterdam for 6 weeks, I saw Boom Chicago, an improv comedy show. They do a hilarious improv skit where the comedians act out scenarios from the audience in gibberish, but everything they're saying sounds exactly like Dutch does to a native English speaker anyway, like the sentence structure, tone and cadence is perfectly analogous to English, only the words make no damn sense. I presume it was actually gibberish because the Dutch speakers were laughing too, but it could'be been real Dutch for all we knew.

Also, I found that the Dutch, who all spoke perfect English anyway, would discourage us English-only speakers from trying to learn any Dutch while we were there, they'd just reply back in English, "Why would you want to learn Dutch? No one speaks Dutch". Although they do have a rather strict language fluency requirement for citizenship, so maybe they we're just discouraging us from trying to stay.
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:07 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]


My ex Father-in-law, a Mennonite, who escaped from WWII Russia into post WWII Germany as a teenager with his younger teenage sister. and lived in a barn working for potatoes in post war Germany made it to Canada and became successful.
He's a very kind man, a committed non-violent Mennonite [which has caused trouble in several countries], and he worked hard all his life and was a kind father. My ex told me about her dad [and mom] growing up and though slightly distant the were both kind and supportive.

Success means meat if you grew up poor so there were three meats [chicken, farm sausage, and steak or meatloaf and one potato and bread and a beverage without ice on Sunday. Maybe some corn].

Anyway, he's almost 90 by now and he said never piss of a Dutchman.
posted by vapidave at 6:12 PM on July 30 [2 favorites]


They do a hilarious improv skit where the comedians act out scenarios from the audience in gibberish, but everything they're saying sounds exactly like Dutch does to a native English speaker anyway, like the sentence structure, tone and cadence is perfectly analogous to English, only the words make no damn sense.

I had always assumed Dutch was like German. Then one day there was some art film on cable that I wasn't paying attention to. It sounded like some English period piece. Then I decided to pay attention and discovered I couldn't understand a word of it. It "sounded" like English but was unintelligible. Dutch...
posted by jim in austin at 6:16 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]


There is that odd feeling of being an anglophone in the Netherlands and reading perfectly normal Dutch signage and *almost* understanding it.

Yes. I speak (and read) French and German also but they're almost no use against Dutch; it always feels to me just that slight degree too far removed that I can't quite get a mental grasp on it.

For example, food words. There's enough similarities that I can usually read menus in Italian or Spanish sufficiently to get by; but I really struggle with a menu in Dutch. Chicken / huhn / poulet / pollo, okay, but OMG HOW IS 'KIP' CHICKEN?

(Speaking French does help in the Dutch-speaking parts of Belgium; it doubles your chances of being able to find a language that you both can understand.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:20 PM on July 30 [2 favorites]


"Kip" is the only Dutch word I learned in 6 weeks. I can't ask where the bathroom is or how to get back to my hotel, but I know I'm going to be eating some damn good kip.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:39 PM on July 30


just make sure you're not eating a plofkip!
posted by toycamera at 6:59 PM on July 30


T.D. Strange, I lived in Holland for a year and the first time I tried to speak Dutch I got yelled at. People don't stop telling you to forget learning Dutch until your pronunciation and grammar improve enough to make it seem like you're serious about it.

I guess I contrast that with Sweden, where people were so pleased that I even bothered trying that I got a smiling, encouraging mini lesson in Swedish for Slow Foreigners every time I tried.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:34 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]


This blogger is an asshole.

There are so many far, far, far, FAR worse examples of bad English in English-speaking countries.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 7:41 PM on July 30 [6 favorites]


Maybe they should take an English course from Soesman Language Training.
posted by Wet Spot at 8:00 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]


Parden?

also /r/dunglish, although it's not terribly active.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:48 PM on July 30


This is funny because I'm reading it while waiting for a flight at Schipol. But, so far, everyone's English is better than mine.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:38 PM on July 30


Seems like an awfully thin post. None of these examples of "Dungrish" seem egregious at all! Some of them are actually correct usage; all of them are easily understood. Nit picking at best! Somewhat racist at worst.
posted by Philby at 9:55 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]


The Whelk: "There is that odd feeling of being an anglophone in the Netherlands and reading perfectly normal Dutch signage and *almost* understanding it."

Often if you read the sign aloud in a pretend-Dutch accent (under your breath because you don't want to sound like you're making fun of anyone) you'll suddenly realize half the words are cognates you just couldn't recognize through the Dutch spelling.
posted by gingerest at 9:59 PM on July 30 [4 favorites]


hearing Dutch makes me feel drunk. I can almost understand. It sits on the surface of my mind but never sinks in, like a heavy stone floating on a pool of mercury. It should go in but doesn't. Very disorienting to say the least, without all the wonderful beer and heavy bread products to make one logy and unaware.
posted by The Whelk at 10:05 PM on July 30 [3 favorites]


although my husband and I still say Verboden Toegang! as a warning to not bother each other cause toegang is a fun word to say.
posted by The Whelk at 10:09 PM on July 30 [2 favorites]




monospace: “As a Dutch expat, I love this stuff. Just wish this blog had more than 10 entries.”
The blog uses the standard '/page/n' pagination scheme, but does not appear to offer links to progress through the pages. (There are previous/next post links at the top of each post, if you actually click through to a single entry.) There are 33 pages of entries going back to 2005. You just have to change the page number in the URL manually.

Which is a shame because unless you did, you'd never have witnessed the glory of “Rock and roll with Van Kooten and Bie” and Wim de Bie's NSFW song in English with inaccurate Dutch subtitles, which appears on page 3.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:04 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


In my experience as an expat in the NL, Dutch people will eagerly try to shame you if you aren't learning Dutch as quickly as they think you should, but they don't want to actually hear you speak it until you stop sounding like a buitenlander. This also varies depending on where you live/work; foreigners who stay in Amsterdam/Rotterdam/Den Haag will probably encounter the don't-bother-learning-Dutch attitude, whereas in the suburbs and villages, it can really annoy people when you ask Spreekt u Engels?.
posted by neushoorn at 1:15 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


> Somewhat racist at worst.

Dutch is a race now? I resemble that remark.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:45 AM on July 31


Working in an office in NL with Dutch colleagues, I found the often abrupt and twisted English maddening for years before realizing its basically just how everything is written in Dutch. I spend a lot of time softening language on our website, for instance.
posted by wingless_angel at 3:58 AM on July 31


Too-Ticky: "> Somewhat racist at worst.

Dutch is a race now? I resemble that remark.
"

Yes, I'm also puzzled how mocking...err...remarkable usage is racist.
posted by moody cow at 3:59 AM on July 31


Is Dutch the living Germanic language closest/most similar to English?
posted by acb at 4:18 AM on July 31


What I've usually heard is that the Frisian languages are English's closest living relatives. Of which, West Frisian, spoken in the Netherlands, has the largest population of speakers.
posted by frimble at 7:03 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


I don't see how this is racist. It is about when two languages collide, which has nothing to do with skin color or ethnicity or whatever. If I am making fun of anything, I am making fun of myself.

I grew up in a bilingual home. My mother is not Dutch. She is German. But this thing that Wikipedia says the Dutch do:

Concatenation of words like officemanager is a common Dutch habit

Germans do that too. Which means I do it too, especially if I am tired. Because I basically speak Germish, not English. I try to weed it out of my comments on MeFi as best I can but I don't always succeed.

If this were a post on Germish, I could tell anecdotes from my childhood about things said by German-Americans I knew growing up (some of them blood relatives). But that's probably a tad off-topic for this post.
posted by Michele in California at 9:42 AM on July 31


If this were a post on Germish, I could tell anecdotes from my childhood about things said by German-Americans I knew growing up (some of them blood relatives). But that's probably a tad off-topic for this post.

No, please go ahead...
posted by acb at 10:18 AM on July 31


frimble's right, but I think mainstream Danish is more like English then mainstream Dutch is.

Still not very like: English has grown a lot further away from its roots than its cousins.
posted by Segundus at 10:46 AM on July 31


acb, here's one:

The German word for elastic is gummi. It translates more literally as rubber. So those candies you buy called gummi bears (maybe gummi baer?) are just elastic bears or rubber bears.

The same word is apparently used for elastic in your clothes. My mother and a very loud friend of hers went to a store to buy sewing supplies. Her friend wandered around the store loudly asking "WHERE ARE THE RUBBERS?" while my mother began studiously acting like "I have never seen this woman before in my life, never mind that we arrived in the same car. Oh, look, there is fabric on the opposite side of the store that I am suddenly keenly interested in." and looking like she wanted to sink through the floor.
posted by Michele in California at 10:54 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


neushoorn: "foreigners who stay in Amsterdam/Rotterdam/Den Haag will probably encounter the don't-bother-learning-Dutch attitude, whereas in the suburbs and villages"

I recently visited Amsterdam for a night, and was struck by how everyone greeted me in English and how much of the signage was in English. Walking down the shopping area just west of the Red Light District was not unlike walking around any English Shopping Centre there were so many UK/US brands. And the message on the site of the old Footlocker saying it had moved was in English only.

I felt like apologising to everyone.
posted by Auz at 12:30 PM on July 31


I just recently learned that I will be relocating to the north of the Netherlands for work, so this will be of great use to me. I can't wait to butcher another language!
posted by LMGM at 4:49 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


and regarding Frisian (the area of which is close to where I'll be living), I recall some sort of saying about its proximity to English: "English and Fries are like cheese and tsiis"

("Fries" and "tschiis" being Frisian words for "Frisian" and "cheese" respectively. I think.)
posted by LMGM at 4:53 PM on July 31


frimble's right, but I think mainstream Danish is more like English then mainstream Dutch is.

Still not very like: English has grown a lot further away from its roots than its cousins.


Yep. Frisian -- let alone Dutch -- is a bit of a time capsule showing what the people who came to Britain 1500 years ago might have spoken, but it's not particularly similar to Modern English at all. It's closely related to Old English (aka Anglo-Saxon), but that's complete gibberish by today's standard. Much of what is kinda-sorta recognisable in Old English is borrowed from Old Norse and Latin.

Then came the Normans, and now we "Anglos" don't speak Anglo-Saxon anymore; instead, we speak terrible French and Latin, mostly. Only about a quarter of Modern English words have Germanic roots, and our grammar is hardly Germanic at all.

(Disclaimer: What follows is purely speculative gut-think. It seems plausible, but that's all I can back it up with.)

Modern English is likely only classified as Germanic rather than Romance for political reasons. Maintaining continuity of the Old-Middle-Modern English lineage makes it seem like the English are a singular race of people who have always been in Britain and always spoken the same language, and the only influence on them and their language is time, and not, you know, wave after wave of conquering foreign armies. Plus, the odds are good that whoever decided Modern English was Germanic did so in the Georgian era, when it was politically expedient to emphasize kinship between Britain and Germany (where the Georgian kings came from) and de-emphasize any connection to France or the Vatican (where the deposed Jacobite kings lived in exile).
posted by Sys Rq at 5:04 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


English is to the Germanic languages what, say, JavaScript is to functional programming languages.
posted by acb at 7:05 AM on August 1


...and our grammar is hardly Germanic at all.

I keep hearing this from English speakers and I wonder where that idea came from. I suspect they're comparing English to German, conclude that they're nothing alike and call it a day. But there are more Germanic languages than German, and they all have a lot in common with English.

English grammar is actually very germanic. Granted, it's somewhat simplified compared to German. English lost it's grammatical cases, where German, Icelandic and Faroese kept (most of) them. But that's a feature english shares with Dutch, Danish, Swedish and Frisian. If you think conjugating verbs is something other Germanic speakers do, the scandinavians will tell you otherwise. And so on.
I think it's telling that Germanic speakers can learn English relatively easily - it's because the languages are very similar.

As for french and Latin influence; off the top of my head I can't think of a single grammatical feature in English that has been borrowed from either Latin or French. There might be some, but there sure aren't very many of them.

The english lexicon on the other hand is totally different matter - although dutch has it's fair share of french loan words as well.
posted by Sourisnoire at 2:42 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


Aye, I have heard that Geordies and Frisians can unexpectedly understand each other.
posted by glasseyes at 5:38 PM on August 2


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