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Lesson 15 - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

A Dutch Continuous - Word Order 4 - Beauty and Cleanliness - Celsius and Fahrenheit - Thoughts on Things Dutch

A Dutch Continuous
Word Order: Sentences Starting with Place, Time, or a Condition
Cleanliness / Beauty
Temperature: Celsius and Fahrenheit
Thoughts on Things Dutch
'The Mini-Titans' (2) Nescio: Titaantjes (2) click to hear - previous
What the thing was we were going to do was never clear to us. But we were going to accomplish something. Wat we eigenlijk doen zouden is ons nooit duidelijk geweest. Iets zouden we doen. click to hear (2)
Bekker had a vague feeling he wanted to tear down all offices. Ploeger wanted his boss to pack the clocks himself, and he was going to watch with a cigar in his mouth, cursing out those guys that could never do anything right. Bekker had een vaag besef dat-ie alle kantoren wilde afbreken. Ploeger wilde zijn baas z'n eigen klokken laten inpakken en er bij gaan staan met een sigaar in z'n hoofd en vloeken op die kerels die nooit iets goed konden doen. click to hear
We strongly agreed that we had to 'get out.' Out of what, and how? Actually all we did was talk, smoke, drink and read books. And Bavink was still Lien's boyfriend. Eéns waren we 't dat we 'eruit' moesten. Waaruit, en hoe? Eigenlijk deden we niets anders dan praten, roken, drinken en boeken lezen. Bavink vrijde bovendien nog met Lien. click to hear
Looking back, I think we would have been great as rich guys, but 'having dough' was something we despised; only Hoyer soon changed his mind about that. Achteraf bedenk ik dat we een prachtig stel kerels geweest waren om rijk te zijn, maar 'centen hebben' vonden we verachtelijk; alleen Hoyer begon daar vrij gauw anders over te denken. click to hear
Bavink just didn't understand why some guys got to ride in carriages, wear expensive overcoats and give orders to other guys who were not less clever than they themselves. You didn't yet see many cars at the time. Bavink begreep niet, waarom die kerels zo maar in rijtuigen mochten rijden en dure jassen aanhebben en andere lui commanderen, die niet stommer waren dan zij. Automobielen zag je toen nog zo niet. click to hear
Whole Summer nights we spent leaning against the fence of the East Park, talking on and on about all and everything. Hele zomernachten stonden we tegen 't hek van 't Oosterpark te leunen en honderd uit te bomen. click to hear 2
You could have bought a complete set of furniture if you could have remembered all that talk. There is already so much being written today. Een heel kamerameublement zou je daaraan hebben kunnen verdienen, als je dat allemaal had kunnen onthouden. Er wordt toch zoveel geschreven tegenwoordig. click to hear
Often we were less talkative. Sitting on the edge of the sidewalk after midnight, just sitting on the pavement, we moodily gazed at the cobblestones, and from the cobblestones to the stars. Dikwijls waren we ook minder spraakzaam. Aan de rand van 't trottoir zaten we tot lang na twaalven, zo maar op de straatstenen, en waren weemoedig en tuurden naar de klinkers, en van de klinkers naar de sterren. click to hear
And then Bekker would say he actually pitied his boss, and I was trying to write a poem, and Hoyer said he was getting up because the blue stone made him cold. En dan zei Bekker, dat-ie eigenlijk medelijden met z'n baas had en ik probeerde een gedicht te maken, en Hoyer zei dat-ie opstond want dat die blauwe steen zo optrok. click to hear
And when in those short, warm nights the black straight over our heads started to pale, we had Bavink with his head in his hands talking about the sun - in a strange sentimental way. En als in die korte, zoele nachten het zwart recht boven onze hoofden wat verschoot, dan zat Bavink met z'n hoofd in z'n handen over de zon te praten, bij 't sentimentele af. click to hear 2
And we thought it a waste to go to bed, man should actually be able to stay awake all the time. That was also something we were also going to change. Kees was asleep. En we vonden dat 't zonde was om naar bed te gaan, dat een mens eigenlijk altijd op moest kunnen blijven. Ook dat zouden we veranderen. Kees zat te slapen. click to hear

A Dutch Continuous

Dutch does not have a Continuous like English (you are reading, I am waiting), but a similar meaning of an activity of extended duration can be conveyed using appropriate verbs like 'zitten' (to sit, to be seated), 'liggen' (to be lying down), 'staan' (to stand, to be standing) or 'lopen' (to walk.)
See below for the another Dutch Continuous, using "aan 't" click to hear 2

subject zitten / liggen / staan / lopen te + verb infinitive (other things)

I'm thinking of a present - Ik zit te denken aan een cadeau click to hear
I was thinking of ... - Ik zat te denken aan ... click to hear
I was waiting for a phone call - Ik zat te wachten op een telefoontje click to hear
I was waiting for ... - Ik zat te wachten op ... click to hear
They were sleeping - Ze lagen te slapen click to hear
He was talking to Pete - Hij stond te praten met Piet click to hear
He was talking to ... - Hij stond te praten met ... click to hear
He is swearing, cursing out - Hij loopt te schelden click to hear
zitten (to sit, be sitting, be seated)
staan (to stand, be standing)
ik zit
jij zit
hij zit
wij zitten
jullie zitten
zij zitten
U zit
click to hear
(to sit)
(I sit)
(you sit)
(he sits)
(we sit)
(you sit)
(they sit)
(you sit)

ik zat
jij zat
hij zat
wij zaten
jullie zaten
zij zaten
U zat
click to hear

(I sat)
(you sat)
(he sat)
(we sat)
(you sat)
(they sat)
(you sat)

ik sta
jij staat
hij staat
wij staan
jullie staan
zij staan
U staat
click to hear

(I stand, am standing)
(you stand)
(he stands)
(we stand)
(you stand)
(they stand)
(you stand)

ik stond
jij stond
hij stond
wij stonden
jullie stonden
zij stonden
U stond
click to hear 2

(I stood, was standing)
(you stood)
(he stood)
(we stood)
(you stood)
(they stood)
(you stood)

(you - singular, informal)

(you - plural, informal)

(you - polite)
liggen (to lie down - like, in bed)
lopen (to walk)
ik lig
jij ligt
hij ligt
wij liggen
jullie liggen
zij liggen
U ligt
click to hear 2
(I am lying down)
(you are lying down)
(he is lying down)
(we are lying down)
(you are lying down)
(they are lying down)
(you are lying down)

ik lag
jij lag
hij lag
wij lagen
jullie lagen
zij lagen
U lag
click to hear 2
(I was lying down)
(you were lying down)
(he was lying down)
(we were lying down)
(you were lying down)
(they were lying down)
(you were lying down)

ik loop
jij loopt
hij loopt
wij lopen
jullie lopen
zij lopen
click to
I walk
you walk
he walks
we walk
you walk
they walk

ik liep
jij liep
hij liep
wij liepen
jullie liepen
zij liepen
U liep
click to hear
I walked
you walked
he walked
we walked
you walked
they walked
you walked
U loopt click to
    hear you walk
We zitten te eten. click to hear We're having dinner. (or lunch)
Ze lopen te demonstreren. click to hear They're in a protest demonstration.
We staan te wachten op een taxi. click to hear 2 3 We're waiting for a taxi.
Hij zit te zwammen. click to hear He's talking nonsense.
Hij zit te zeuren. click to hear 2 He is nagging, talking about irrelevant things in a very annoying way.
Hij ligt te lezen. click to hear He's reading. (Probably lying down doing that.)
Hij ligt te etteren. click to hear 2 He's engaging in provocative, useless talk or actions, making a nuisance of himself.
Zit niet zo te zeuren! click to hear 2 Stop nagging!
Ik sta te trillen op m'n benen click to hear 2 ['I'm shaking on my legs'] - 'I'm trembling with fear or from exhaustion'
D'r zit een hond te blaffen. click to hear 2 3 4 A dog is barking.
The figure is not often used in the perfect tense - but when it does there isn't the past participle but the infinitive:
We hebben lopen demonstreren. click to
(We hebbe lope demonstrere click to hear 2 3)
We have been in a protest march.
Hij heeft de hele week lopen klagen. click to hear 2 He's been complaining all week.
Hij heeft de hele middag zitten typen. click to hear 2 He has been typing all afternoon.

This Dutch continuous can only be used for people or animals. At school a teacher told us you cannot say 'de wind zat in de schoorsteen te huilen' (~the wind sat howling in the chimney.)

Another Ongoing Activity Structure

Another figure structure to express ongoing activity uses "aan 't" click to hear 2
- it may be related to English forms like 'asleep' and 'awake.'

subject zijn (to be) aan 't verb infinitive

You'll see this figure used, but I do not recommend its use by students. It doesn't sound right to me in some situations but I can't think of rules for its use. My feeling is that it's mostly used for I and we.

Ik ben aan 't koken. click to hear I'm preparing dinner (or other hot food)
Ik ben een brood aan 't bakken. click to hear 2 I'm baking bread.
Wat ben je aan het doen? click to hear What are you [doing] working on, busy with?
Ik ben aan 't winkelen
Ik was aan 't winkelen
click to hear 2
click to hear
'I am shopping'
'I was shopping'
When used with a noun, "aan 't" just takes the literal meaning 'at the'
Ze zijn aan het goede adres. click to hear 2 They came to the right address, they're at the right place
(usually figuratively)
"Aan 't werk" means 'let's get working'
Aan 't werk.
Laten we aan 't werk gaan.
Also: Aan de slag!
click to hear
click to hear 2
click to hear 2
To work! Let's get started! Let's start working!
Let's get to work, start working.
To work! Let's get started! Let's start working!

<< previous - verbs central - next >>

Word Order: Sentences Starting with Place, Time, or a Condition

As discussed in lesson 13, Dutch turns around subject and verb in questions, while English turns around subject and working verb for 'to be' and uses the auxiliary verb 'to do' for other verbs in questions.
Is it dark? Is het donker? click to hear 2
Did the sun go down? Ging de zon onder? click to hear 2
Otherwise, English word order doesn't change much, but in Dutch some sentence types have word order variations. It may be a little difficult for foreign students, but getting this right will make your Dutch more authentic, it will be worth the time spent working on this.
It is dark. Het is donker. click to hear 2
At night it is dark. 's Nachts is het donker. click to hear 2
When it is dark ... Als het donker is ... click to hear
The sun went down. De zon ging onder. click to hear 2 3
In the evening, the sun went down. 's Avonds ging de zon onder. click to hear 2
When the sun went down ... Toen de zon onderging ... click to hear 2
Verb Before Subject
Word Order in The Subordinate Clause
Place of Complement and Object
Compound Verbs Changes

The Position of Verb and Subject

After a statement that indicates time, place or a condition, the working verb is placed before the subject:

statement of time, place or condition working verb subject (time) (place) (object) (complement) (other verbs)

Vanmorgen scheen de zon. click to hear This morning, the sun was shining.
compare with: De zon scheen de hele dag. click to hear The sun was shining all day.
Vannacht regende het. click to hear Last night it rained.
compare with: 't Regende gisteren click to hear It was raining yesterday.
Vannacht heeft 't geregend. click to hear Last night it rained.
In Kentucky is het gras blauw. click to hear In Kentucky the grass is blue.
Vandaag eten we vis. click to hear 2 Today we're [eating] having fish.
compare with: Ik eet vis. click to hear 2 I'm [eating] having fish.
En dan gaan we eten. click to hear 2 And then we'll eat.
En toen kwam Jan. click to hear [And then John came.] And at that moment John arrived.
En toen werd het donker. click to hear And then it got dark.
compare: Het werd donker. click to hear It [became] turned dark.
Om elf uur viel ik in slaap. click to hear 2 At eleven I fell asleep.
Gisteren schopte ik niet hard genoeg. click to hear Yesterday, I didn't kick hard enough. (soccer)
Vroeger was alles beter. click to hear In the past, everything was better.
Misschien kunnen we wel buiten zitten click to hear Maybe we can sit outside.
Volgens het weerbericht gaat het morgen regenen. click to hear According to the weather forecast it will rain tomorrow.
Daar is de Engelse schroevedraaier gebruikt. click to hear "There the English screwdriver was used." (using a hammer on a screw)
In het Nederlands zeggen we 'Gezondheid!' als iemand niest. click to hear In Dutch we say 'Gezondheid!' click to hear when someone sneezes. click to hear 2
In 1813 werd Nederland een koninkrijk. click to hear In 1813 Holland became a kingdom.
compare: Nederland werd een koninkrijk in 1813. click to hear Holland became a kingdom in 1813.
In 1568 begon De Tachtigjarige Oorlog. click to hear In 1568 the 80-Years War (The Dutch Revolt) started.
compare: De Tachtigjarige Oorlog begon in 1568. click to hear The 80-Years War (The Dutch Revolt) started in 1568.
In Nederland is het vaak bewolkt. click to hear In Holland, it's often overcast.
compare: Het is vaak bewolkt in Nederland. click to hear It's often overcast in Holland.
Aan het eind van de straat gaan we rechtsaf. click to hear At the end of the street we'll [go right] make a right turn.
Door de tegenwind kwamen we maar met moeite vooruit. click to hear Because of the wind-against, we only moved forward [with difficulty] slowly.
Behalve z'n neus lijkt hij op z'n oma. click to hear Except for his nose he looks like his grandmother.
Met Kerstmis gingen we naar de nachtmis. click to hear At Christmas we went to the midnight mass.
compare: We gingen naar de nachtmis met Kerstmis. click to hear We went to midnight mass at Christmas.
or just as good: We gingen met Kerstmis naar de nachtmis. click to hear 2 We went to midnight mass at Christmas.

Word Order in The Subordinate Clause Itself

The statement of time, place or condition is sometimes just one word, or a combination of one or more prepositions and nouns, but it can also be a sub-sentence with its own subject and working verb. If I'm not mistaken grammarians call a sub-sentence like this a 'subordinate clause' - the Dutch word is (de) bijzin click to hear 2 - 'secondary sentence.' This kind of sub-sentence cannot stand on its own, does not appear as an independent sentence.
Als het regent wordt de wedstrijd afgelast. click to hear If it rains, the game will be canceled
Toen de oorlog begon was m'n vader tweeëndertig. click to hear When the war started, my Dad was 32.
compare: M'n vader was tweeëndertig toen de oorlog begon. click to hear My Dad was 32 when the war started.
Als de zon schijnt ben ik blij. click to hear When the sun shines I'm happy.
compare: Ik ben blij. click to hear I'm happy.
Als het regent word ik droevig. click to hear When it rains I get sad.
compare: Ik word droevig. click to hear I'm getting sad.
Als de muziek begint moet je stil zijn. click to hear When the music starts you'll have to be quiet
compare: De muziek begint. click to hear The music is starting.
compare: Je moet stil zijn. click to hear You have to be quiet.
Als het concert begint moet je stil zijn. click to hear When the concert starts you'll have to be quiet.

Placing Complement and/or Object

If there is a complement or object in these conditional subsentences, it is placed before the verb, and not after the verb like in a regular sentence.
The word order in a conditional sub-sentence:
condition subject (complement) (object) working verb(other verbs)
Toen het donker werd gingen we naar huis. click to hear When it got dark we went home.
compare: Het werd donker. click to hear It [became] turned dark.
compare: We gingen naar huis. click to hear 2 We went home.
compare: We gingen naar huis toen het donker werd. click to hear 2 We went home when it got dark
Als 't hard regent blijf ik thuis. click to hear 2 If there's heavy rain I'll stay home.
compare: 't Regent hard. click to hear There's a heavy rain..
Als je vis eet moet je ook wat drinken. click to hear 2 When you're having fish, you should also have something to drink.
compare with: Ik eet vis. click to hear 2 I'm [eating] having fish.
compare with: Je moet wat drinken. click to hear 2 You should drink something.
Toen het donker werd ging het licht aan. click to hear When it got dark the light came on.
compare: En toen werd het donker. click to hear And then it got dark.
compare: Het licht ging aan. click to hear The light came on.
Toen we naar huis gingen was het donker. click to hear 2 When we went home it was dark.
compare: We gingen naar huis. click to hear 2 We went home.
compare: 't Was donker. click to hear It was dark.
Toen het licht groen werd reden we weg. click to hear 2 When the light turned green we drove off.
Als het licht rood wordt moet je stoppen. click to hear 2 When the light turns red you have to stop.
Als het licht rood is moet je stoppen. click to hear 2 When the light is red you have to stop.
Als het licht groen is mag je doorrijden. click to hear 2 When the light is green you may drive on.
compare: Het licht werd groen en we reden weg. click to hear 2 The light turned green and we drove off.

Compound Verbs Changes

Lesson 12 mentioned that some compound verbs split up in the imperfect present and past tenses - but when the preposition part of those verbs moves (like a complement) in front of the root verb in conditional subsentences they get attached again:
Toen de zon onderging begon de muziek. click to hear When the sun went down the music started.
compare: De zon ging onder. click to hear The sun went down.
compare: De muziek begon. click to hear The music started.
Toen de zon onderging werd het donker. click to hear When the sun went down it got dark.
compare: Het werd donker. click to hear It [became] turned dark.
Toen de bliksem insloeg ging het licht uit. click to hear 2 When lightning hit, the light went out.
compare: De bliksem sloeg in. click to hear 2 Lightning hit.
Toen het licht uitging zag ik de sterren. click to hear 2 When the light went out I saw the stars.
compare: Ik zag de sterren. click to hear I saw the stars.
Toen ik de sterren zag, begreep ik ... click to hear 2 When I saw the stars, I understood ...
Doe je het licht uit als je weggaat? click to hear Will you please turn off the light when you leave?
compare with: Ik ga weg. click to hear 2 I'm going away, I'm leaving.
compare with: Ga je weg? click to hear 2 Are you leaving?
Toen ik het licht aandeed sloegen de stoppen door. click to hear 2 3 When I turned on the light the fuses blew.
Ik tilde z'n fiets op.
Hij kan erg hard fietsen.
Toen ik z'n fiets optilde begreep ik hoe hij zo hard kon rijden.
click to hear 2 3
click to hear 2
click to hear 2 3 4
I lifted up his bike.
He can ride a bicycle very fast, he [can be] is very fast on a bike.
When I lifted up his bike I understood how he could ride that fast.
De zon komt door click to hear 2 The sun is coming [through] out (clouds are disappearing)
Als de zon doorkomt na een regenbui click to hear 2 3 When the sun comes [through] out after a shower
De verwachte groei bleef uit click to hear 2 3 The expected growth didn't come about
De fabriek werd weer gesloten click to hear 2 The factory was closed (again)
Daar de verwachte groei uitbleef, werd de fabriek weer gesloten click to hear 2 Because the expected growth didn't come about the factory was closed (again)

<< previous - word order central - next >>

Cleanliness / Beauty

schoon click to hear (schoon/schone click to hear) 'clean' - schoonheid click to hear 2 - 'beauty'
vies click to hear (vies/vieze click to hear) 'dirty' - vuil click to hear 2 (vuil/vuile click to hear 2) 'dirty' - lelijk click to hear 2 (lelijk/lelijke click to hear 2) 'ugly'
[a wash stand]
wastafel click to hear
[a wash stand faucet]
kraan click to hear
[a bar of soap]
een stuk zeep click to hear
[a pump bottle of liquid soap]
zeepflesje click to hear
[some liquid soap on my hand]
vloeibare zeep click to hear
douche click to hear
[a shower]
douche click to hear - ik douche click to hear 2
[a towel]
handdoek click to hear
[terrycloth, the materiasl that towels are made of]
badstof click to hear
[a mirror, showing me and my camera taking the picture]
spiegel click to hear 2
[a hairbrushe]
borstel click to hear = haarborstel click to hear
[a comb]
kam click to hear
[electric shaver]
scheerapparaat click to hear
[nail file]
nagelvijl click to hear 2
[a toothbrush]
tandenborstel click to hear 2
[two tubes of 'Zendium'  toothpaste]
tandpasta click to hear
[some toothpaste on a brush]
tandpasta click to hear
[washing hands]
zeep click to hear - handen wassen click to hear
[shampooing my hair]
shampoo click to hear - haar wassen click to hear
[brushing teeth]
tanden poetsen click to hear


[empty laundry basket]
wasmand click to hear
[laundry basket with laundry]
wasmand met was click to hear
[washer, washing machine]
wasmachine click to hear 2
[a measuring cup with detergent]
waspoeder click to hear = wasmiddel click to hear 2
wasknijpers click to hear
[rack for drying clothes]
droogrekje click to hear
waslijn click to hear



Fahrenheit to Celsius (°C, Centigrade)

[a bar chart comparing Fahrenheit and Celsius degrees]
(de) temperatuur click to hear 2 'temperature' - (de) thermometer click to hear 'thermometer' - (de) graden click to hear 'degrees' - Celsius click to hear 2
koud click to hear 'cold' - koel click to hear 2 cool (only literally) - lauw click to hear 'tepid' - warm click to hear 'warm' - heet click to hear 'hot'
(de) kou click to hear 'the cold' - (de) koelte click to hear 'coolness, coolth' (temperature) - (de) warmte click to hear 2 'warmth' - (de) hitte click to hear 2 'heat'
Water freezes at 0° Celsius (32° Fahrenheit) - (het) vriespunt click to hear 'freezing point' = (het) smeltpunt click to hear 'melting point'
(het) ijs click to hear 'ice' // 'ice cream' - (de) vorst click to hear 2 - 'frost' // 'king' - see also: Weather
Average human body temperature is 98.6°F, 36.9°C - slightly below 100° Fahrenheit (38° Celsius) - (de) lichaamstemperatuur click to hear 2 'body temperature'
Water boils at 100° Celsius (212° Fahrenheit) - (het) kookpunt click to hear 'boiling point'
(de) stoom click to hear 'steam' - koken click to hear 2 'to boil' // 'to cook' ‑>>
Room temperature is about 20° Celsius (68° Fahrenheit) - (de) kamertemperatuur click to hear 2
[a bar chart comparing temperatures in Fahrenheit and Celsius degrees]
[a bar chart comparing  temperatures in Celsius and Fahrenheit]
[a bar chart comparing  Fahrenheit and Celsius] Medical

(de) koorts click to hear 2 ('fever')
(de) verhoging click to hear ('a slight fever, a temperature')

click to
degrees Celsius
graden Celsius
click to
click to
click to
click to
click to
click to
click to
click to
click to
zesendertig negen
click to
click to
click to
click to
click to
click to
click to
click to
click to
click to
click to
<< - numbers, simple math and dimensions -

Thoughts on Things Dutch (Instead of a Blog)

'Cream of Tartar' is NOT 'Room van Tandsteen'

The English word 'tartar' may refer to the tribe of the Tartars (also called 'Tatars') or to two substances:
1. the sediment on teeth, or
2. the main ingredient of the crystals sometimes found at the bottom of wine bottles (argol.)
Now in Dutch, there are two different words for these two substances:
1. the sediment on teeth is called: (de) tandsteen click to hear ('tooth-stone') - while
2. the crystals in wine are called: wijnsteen click to hear 2 ('wine-stone')
Various sources (like Webster's dictionary) say the sediment on teeth is a mixture of food remains, saliva and salts like calcium carbonate. In 'On Food and Cooking' (Collier Books, 1984) Harold McGee says 'wijnsteen' tartar is KHC4H4O6 and 'tartaric acid' wijnsteenzuur click to hear 2 ('wine-stone-acid') is H2C4H4O6.

In cooking, 'wijnsteen' is known in English as 'cream of tartar,' an ingredient of baking powder, and it is also used in egg preparation. Dutch uses the pharmacists' Latin word for cream of tartar: cremor tartari click to hear 2 (cremor tartaris click to hear 2.) In Holland, you can buy it at pharmacies or old-fashioned drugstores, maybe at 'health' stores.

Now of course some food items have unappetizing origins, but the translation 'room van tandsteen' that some computer programs cough up for 'cream of tartar' is not only incorrect but also really gross. Imagine discreet white vans touring dentists' offices to collect those scrapings from dirty mouths, and that cooks would then later put that stuff in their cakes. Eet smakelijk! click to hear Bon appetit!
(het) bestanddeel click to hear 2 'ingredient'

'Cream of Tartar' is NIET 'Room van Tandsteen'
'Cream of tartar' is een bestanddeel van bakpoeder. Het wordt in de Nederlandse keuken zelden als zelfstandig ingrediënt gebruikt - en er is geen Nederlands woord voor, alleen het potjeslatijn 'cremor tartari(s).' Sommige vertaalprogramma's zeggen dat het Nederlandse woord 'room van tandsteen' is, maar dat is niet correct. Het Engelse woord 'tartar' betekent zowel 'tandsteen' als 'wijnsteen,' en dat laatste is wat we in 'cream of tartar' vinden. Stel je voor dat witte bestelwagentjes bij tandartsen langs zouden gaan om het uit vuile bekken geschraapte tandsteen op te halen, en dat de mensen dat vieze spul dan in het beslag van gebak zouden doen. Eet smakelijk! click to hear

Hans Keilson, Not a Dutch Author

In August 2010, the New York Times had a very positive review of two novels about wartime Holland by Hans Keilson. The article mentioned they were translations - so I assumed they were Dutch books, and that made me wonder why this was the first time I heard of Mr Keilson. A book in translation about Holland - you would expect the author to be a Dutchman.
German Wikipedia told me he is a German-language author who fled to Holland when the nazis came to rule Germany in the 1930s. He spend much of the war in hiding in Holland, remained there after the war, and I assume he became a Dutch citizen. Coming from a slightly different culture and with his life experience, he must have a very interesting perspective on life in Holland.

I have nothing against Mr Keilson, his books may well be as good as the NYT review said, and he must be a good person. I just want to point out that he doesn't write in Dutch. We don't call all writers living in English-speaking countries 'English authors,' only those who write in English.

Now of course all of this may be totally irrelevant to reviewers and the common people who read the book in translation and don't care what the original language was. The New York Times didn't bother to publish my clarification.

Neitherlander - An Irishman's Difficulties with The Dutch Character

Joseph O'Neill's Netherland is a novel about a Dutchman somewhat lost in post-9/11 New York. The main character Hans click to hear van den Broek click to hear has many complicated thoughts, but reading the book I was wondering with growing irritation: Why a Dutchman? (Waarom een Nederlander? click to hear) Just for a great book title?

The 40 or 50 Dutch words in the book are all spelled correctly, and only one is not used in the right sense. Mr O'Neill's descriptions of Dutch streetscapes and Dutch Santa Claus customs don't look wrong - I read somewhere he spent some time in Holland as a teenager. But the promising Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn click to hear 2 was assassinated at the time of the book, and that is never mentioned. The murder shocked the country and many people were deeply saddened and angry over the lost chance for change. Even ten years later there is still a great sense of loss over how Holland might have become a better place had Mr Fortuyn lived. He would certainly have shaken up the cozy political establishment.
One of Mr Fortuyn's popular points was that some recent immigrants are hostile to the Dutch culture of freedom, tolerance and equality but that doesn't seem to be on Van den Broek's mind.
The world news often makes me think of parallels with Dutch history - but protagonist Van den Broek's visits to a few Dutch historical sites in New York are about all the Dutch history in the book. Old New York

Mr O'Neill's Dutchman is of another generation than I, and I may not be your typical or average Dutchman, but what angers me in the book is Mr O'Neill's appropriation of a Dutch character in his assumption that except for a few externalities Dutchmen are fully exchangeable with say Englishmen, Belgians and Scandinavians. (Is that the Post-Colonialism some reviews mentioned?) Van den Broek's bike-riding in New York with his mother is a nice touch, but is that all there is to being Dutch?

Not many Dutchmen consider themselves religious anymore, and I'm not religious myself, but Dutch ethics are the Christian morality, and images and phrases from the Bible are frequently found in Dutch.
Someday you may notice Dutchmen are extremely critical of each other, and I have to admit I myself often feel an exaggerated competitiveness, a great difficulty to acknowledge that other Dutchmen might be equals (let alone superior) in effort or achievement in my field, and I think it's typically Dutch. (My website is of course truly unique.)
My father came from a poor background and on several occasions encountered opposition from the establishment, and also as a member of an in the past discriminated-against minority I'm always aware of other Dutchmen's social position and background, and I think that's very common in Dutchmen.

Land of Ire
I thought up a great book title: Land of Ire. Its main character an Irishman employed by the rulers of a place of great anger, like one of the many places in the Third World where newcomers, later arrivals exploit the natural resources of older, indigenous populations or minorities. Colonizing while brown. The first neo-Colonialist novel!

For the Irish background I could find the necessary Irish names in Ulysses or At Swim-Two-Birds and I could describe the view on postcards my Dad sent home from a visit to Ireland long ago. Let me quote from the great Dubliners' song 'The Town I Loved so Well' and mention Gerry Adams and that stone of Blarney; I could search for a few Gaelic words, and let me also mention that seventh son of the seventh son thing.

But shouldn't there be more? If I take the trouble to go for an Irishman, to tie in with the title, shouldn't there be something more? Or are a few names, words, customs and landscapes all there is special to an Irishman?
Shouldn't there be something more meaningful, like an Irish inner life? Maybe (I'm just guessing) Irish people are always feeling guilty over not speaking Gaelic better, and feel sympathy for the IRA and the struggle for Northern Ireland but unease over the violence employed? And isn't the Catholic church still a major force in Ireland, and religion part of everyday life?

Maybe I'm just as a typical Dutchman fussing about not very important things. Or did I miss something in the book?

Related: The Many Mistakes in Hans Brinker

Read my Christmas stories about Holland: 1 - 2

Feel free to comment by email - good talkbacks might get published here.

After I thought up the 'Land of Ire' title I noticed on the Internet that there is already an animated feature by that name.

Do I Say It Right?

Someone asked me "Do you say that name right? I've heard art historians say it differently."
A University of Chicago website states: "There are three internationallly accepted ways to pronounce the name 'Bruegel:' BrOYgel, BrEEgel and BrOOgel." - but not one of those three is how it is said in Holland. Actually, Dutchmen might wonder who you're talking about when you would use one of those 'three internationallly accepted ways' to pronounce the name.
Hear how Dutchmen say the name: Pieter Bruegel click
 to hear 2. Now of course this is a bit difficult, because there are no sounds like Dutch EU click to hear and G click to hear in English (and Mr Bruegel makes it more complicated with an unusual spelling of his name.) These Dutch words have that same sound: beugel click to hear 2 ('brace') - vleugel click to hear ('wing; grand piano.')
Have you heard Frenchmen say EEL-ahr-ree CLEAN-tun? Does that make you think Americans pronounce the foreign secretary's name incorrectly? Should English drop the H and 'short I' because Frenchmen can't say it? << - essays -
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(Learning Dutch)
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