Kop Profiel The Netherlands

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Dutch words: acid, airbag, babyface, bacon

Ewoud Sanders
Is Dutch still Dutch? As the following dialogue demonstrates, English words are increasingly forcing their way into the Dutch language.

'WHAT LANGUAGE do they speak in the Netherlands?''

''Silly question: Dutch.''

''Well, that's what I thought, but I wasn't quite sure. Listen to the commercials on Dutch TV. At least half of them are in English. The same goes for shop fronts, road signs and billboards. You read and hear English and American everywhere.''

''It's like that all over the world.''

''Sure, but it's even worse in Holland.''

''Aren't you exaggerating a little?''

''No, not at all. When my three-year-old cousin is enthusiastic about something, he shouts 'Yes!'. When he's angry it's 'shit!'. His elder sister says 'Fuck!'. It's the same all over the country and they all seem to think it's perfectly normal.''

''Well, it had struck me that everyone says 'okay' all the time.''

''Lots of countries do that. The word okay is America's most successful export product.''

''But do the Dutch really consider it normal, all that English?''

''Not entirely. Apparently, there are two groups. Some people say: what's the problem, every language borrows from other languages and English just happens to be the dominant language at the moment. Many English words are sort of 'Dutchified' and others are quickly replaced, so there really isn't a problem. Other people actively resist the English influence. One magazine campaigns for Dutch equivalents to be thought up for English words creeping into the language. There's even a group called Anglowaan (Anglo-delusion) that tries to save people from the delusion that English is somehow better than Dutch.''

''What do the Dutch writers do?''

''Some of them just ignore it completely, while others, including one of the most famous Dutch authors, predict that Dutch will be dead within fifty years. He aroused quite a controversy when he said that, because his main reason for saying so was that his daughter always said 'Shit' when she hurt herself. That was his proof that Dutch would give up the ghost within half a century.''

''You can't be serious. What's the government doing about it?''

''One minister said a while ago that English should be the main language at universities. While quiet efforts continue behind the scenes to strengthen the position of Dutch within the European Union, the government hasn't really taken part in the debate at all. In fact, the official list of Dutch words, which is compulsory for the education system and the civil service, is chock-full of English words. Look at it. Under A, you'll find words like aboriginal, accountancy, ace, acid, act, aerobic, afrolook, aftershave, à go-go, aids, airbag, airconditioning, all in, allright, all risk, allround, anchorman and appetizer. As for B, there's babyboom, babybox, babydoll, babyface, babysit, babysitter, backgammon, background, backhand, back-up, bacon... Need I go on?''

''No, no, that'll do. And these are words for which the Dutch government prescribes an official spelling?''

''Yes, you might say that these words are officially considered Dutch. Even the word 'shit' is in there, somewhere between shirtsponsor and shock.''

''No shit!''

''No, really!''

''Alright, now I understand why you were wondering which language they speak here.''

NRC Webpagina's
1 JULI 1999

Dutch Words

batch, battledress, bazooka, beatgeneration, beauty, benefit of the doubt, black power, blow-out, board, bobtail, bock, body-art, bodyguard, bodyliner, bodyshaping, bodystocking, boobytrap, brainbox, braindrain, braintrust, brainwashing, breakdown, break-evenpoint, briefing, browning, buddyseat, bug, business, butterfly,

caddie, cakewalk, camcorder, candybar, cashflow, casting, centerfold, charter, checklist, cheerio, citybag, claim, clan, clean, clearing, closereading, coaster, cocktailshaker, coming man, counseling, counselor, country, covergirl, crackdealer, crazy, creamcracker, cross, cross-over, cruise, cue, cutter,

et cetera.

Source: Woordenlijst Nederlandse Taal

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NRC Webpagina's © NRC HANDELSBLAD ([email protected]) JULI 1999