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Six Fun Dutch Words

By Michael Simpson

I’ve always enjoyed the weird words in other languages that just make the language feel more unique.  Portmanteaus were my obsession when I was a young teenager (supernerd), and, honestly, I couldn’t get enough.  Nowadays, I’m into phrases that couldn’t quite be translated into English or phrases that express a normally unexpressable emotion behind them.

This month, for whatever reason, though, I am obsessed with Dutch.  That’s right, everyone; in the midst of the Rushin’ to Russian Challenge, my heart starts leaning towards the almighty Dutch juggernaut.

Dutch, the official language of the Netherlands, is really not as hard as other languages in western Europe.  When spoken aloud or read, it feels like German was splattered with English and nobody bothered to correct the mess afterwards.  No offense to Dutch speakers, of course.  First impressions matter.

Yes, it feels like a weird language but weirdness is the spice of life.  Let’s look at five weird Dutch words and what they do for us.

1.  Pinderkaas

What goes well on a sandwich?  Lunch meats?  Slabs of beef?  Here in my special corner of the United States, I prefer the lovely taste of jam… and peanut cheese?

In the late 1800s to early 1900s, butter was only really used for products that actually contained butter, which sadly did not include peanut butter.  There was a mashed peanut variety called ‘pindadokun’ which cut into slices like cheese.  Thus, it was peanut cheese and not peanut butter for the Dutch.

2.   Kapsalon

This means hairdresser but also refers to a French fry snack that has meat, cheese, and vegetables.  It is named after the occupation of the first person who asked for it to be made at a schwarma shop.  “The kapsalon order” was served daily to the kapsalon who ordered it and eventually caught on as a hit.

I would not necessarily recommend eating the kapsalon, however.  It has a very high caloric rating which meakes sense considering the number of fatty ingredients.  One serving can reach up to 1800 kilocalories.  Better loosen that belt!

3.    Ziekenauto

Sometimes words that we hear in a language sound vaguely familiar.  Ziekenauto in Dutch has that familiar ring to it.  Wait a second… is this a… Dutch portmanteau?  I think it is!

A combination of the Dutch words for sick person and car, it’s not just an ill vehicle but an ambulance.  A few images of the vehicle that I saw in my research made the ziekenauto a combination of a hearst and van, though that might just be my own imagination.

4.    Mierenneuker

This one belongs in a special Silly Linguistics: After Dark segment.  This word translates into “someone who is intimate with ants.”  And by intimate… we mean, of course, to have sex with, to do the dirty, to make passionancy.

However, it doesn’t actually mean to do it with ants (as it would be physically impossible) but means someone is very attentive to details.  Wikitionary gives a loose translation of “nitpicker” as well, so it does seem to have a negative connotation.

5.    Brandslang

Let’s play a game.  What’s long, has a mouth and spits water out of it?  Okay, I’ll just give you the answer!  It’s a fire snake!  I can already imagine the confused looks.  The snake is actually putting out the fire not made of, or using fire.

Firefighters in the Netherlands use the brandslang (or water hose) to do their difficult task of fighting off fires.  How often they need to do so, I am unsure, as I can assure you, I did not look up fire statistics in the Netherlands.

6.     Schildpad

Move over, Poliwhirl!  There’s a new water-type Pokemon in town.  He’s green, shielded and a toad?  His speed stat is also incredibly slow and he has no jumping ability?  What kind of toad is this?

Schildpad actually means turtle in Dutch.  Surprised?  I am not!  German is the same way, not having a true word for turtle but instead just using the word for toad.  I wonder if they’d invent a new word if they met a Galapagos turtle?

Dutch is just a fun language to mess around with; I wouldn’t even necessarily call it weirder than other languages but I certainly enjoy reading Dutch words and their translations.

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1 Comment

  1. Eva

    It’s pindakaas, not pinderkaas. Pinda means peanut.
    There are so many fun Dutch words and sentences. Personally I love “klotsende oksels” which litterally means sloshing armpits. It’s used when someone sweats a lot because they are nervous.

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