I will never get used to writing an email that starts with “Dear Joke”, or “Hello Freek”, or better yet, “Taco, I would like to introduce you to Harm”! How about good ol’ Mr. Fokker. You may have seen him on the silver screen but let me tell you, the Fokkers are alive and kicking (and numerous) here in the Netherlands! Which brings me to the title and essential thesis of this entry: Dutch people like names that sound down-right ridiculous in English.
I pity the innocent Dutch child that grows up in the farming fields of Friesland, and then decides to spread their wings and start a life in an anglophone country, named: Aart van de Vaart. Yes, I cannot help and giggle like a school-girl ever time I hear that last name (FYI: Vaart is pronounced very similar to the English word “fart”). Call me juvenile, but you cannot disagree that many a Dutch name sound simply silly in English.
And yet, we haven’t even got to the very long list of Dutch first names that start with the letter “J” and are essentially unpronounceable to anglophones. We’ve got Jaap and Jarno, Joost and Joop, and don’t forget our good friends Jurgen, Joord and Jelle (and the list goes on…I won’t even get started on names that start with “Sj”!) Yes, these names may work very well in the lowlands, but something is definitely lost in translation. Huh? Your Dutch parents named you what?!
Now, all of this may be terribly amusing to non-Dutch people. If you’re Dutch and reading this, I can see you shaking your head and saying “Doe normaal! What is wrong with the name Joost?! A perfectly good name, toch?” And my reply is simple: Let’s be honest — there are Dutch names that are ridiculous even in Dutch!! How does one explain my perpetually cranky neighbour Meneer Zonderkop (Mr. Without Head) or my colleague Mevrouw Naaktgeboren (Mrs. Born Naked) – a slightly obvious statement, don’t you think?
A personal favourite of mine has to be the very common last name Niemands, which is the Dutch word for “nobody”. Or taken a step further, the highly expressive name Niemantsverdriet – which translates to “No Man’s Trouble” or “No Man’s Sorrow”. You really have to ask how that name came about?
But how about the innocent child who is blessed with the last name Niemandsvriend (Nobody’s friend). Let’s just hope his parents didn’t name him Sicco. I’d put money on the fact that he wasn’t the most popular kid in class!