Monday, March 5


Daphne Wayne Bough, society host and gay icon, is considering learning Flemish. Or Dutch as it is called in Flemish, if you see what I mean.

Daphne got her camera out to illustrate the clear dangers of taking such a step. But more of that below. Learning Dutch also has its advantages for the English speaker.

For a start there is the apparent similarity between the two languages. Waar is het toilet? Staggering in its resemblance to where is the toilet I am sure you will agree. They try to confuse you with the rearrangement of the letters of the definite article but it is hardly a Countdown conundrum.

Plus, if you get stuck you can always throw an English sounding word into the sentence and the chances are that you will be understood. Even if they might have said it a little differently. Dunglish, where Dutch and English collide……

Lobbing English curse words into your sentences is especially advantageous it seems. It places you above the law according to this charming story in which a young gentleman roars ‘fuck you’ at a policeman but having been charged by the officer in question is let off by the judge, who ruled that while it was ‘not very nice’ it was also not ‘ insulting’.

Before we get to complacent, however, Learning Dutch is not all a bed of roses. For every bed van rozen - who could have guessed it! - there is a kunst wet or een dikke shag. Een dikke shag – well what other type of shag is there, says you – is actually a thick cigarette tobacco. A very false friend, if you are fond of rollies.

The pronunciation can present a challenge, particularly those dratted double vowels. A double vowel is supposed to be pronounced which essentially means droning ‘aaaaaaaa’ or ‘oooooooo’ for about five seconds as if you have completely forgotten what it is you set out to say. It is important, however. Consider the lessons of kaak versus kak. Jaw versus poo. You have the choice between sounding stupid or very stupid.

There is also the danger of literal translations. I recently struggled to understand why everyone seemed so taken aback that an acquaintance had recently afgestapt. Afgestapt (literally ‘stepped off’) as far as I was concerned means ‘disembarked’. What form of public transport did he get off, I enquired. His wife, it emerged. Yes, afgestapt is also to walk out (on one’s responsibilities).

I’ll not even mention those confusing dipthongs.

Go for it Daphne.


Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

Perhaps his wife looked like the back of a bus?

Hercé said...

you see, you are a natural...