I used to have this colleague who almost exclusively spoke to me in Dutch expressions. Now of course, some would see this as charming, perhaps even educational, or a nice throw back to the times when our grandmothers spoke of the importance of stitches in time and referred to elusive characters such as the Queen of Sheba and Riley (what was so bad about leading Riley’s life anyways?!). The problem was that my colleague spoke in Dutch expressions haphazardly translated into his own unique English versions.
oh oh, here comes the monkey!
The result was a trail of bizarrely strung together words that senselessly hung in the air and required my constant nod and smile of approval/understanding. Many a mornings were spent hearing about cows being pulled out of ditches, tall tulips getting their heads chopped off and monkeys (yes, monkeys!).
After relentless exposure to such Dunglish phrases I began to notice a pattern: all Dutch expressions can be grouped together in 3 main categories:
1) expressions relating to farm life (i.e: involving beloved Dutch cows, farmers, fields, windmills, etc.). Oh how cliché!
2) expressions relating to the endearing Dutch weather (i.e: involving wind, rain, sun or sea).
3) expressions that make no sense at all (i.e.: examples to follow)
Of course if you knew me, you’d know that the latter is indeed my favourite. Once you’ve heard yet another Dutch expression about the weather, you’ve heard them all (Voor niets gaat de zon op, Na regen komt zonneschijn, and so on…)!!
The ones that tickle my fancy are the truly bizarre:
- Als de hemel valt, krijgen we allemaal een blauwe pet
(Translation: If the sky/heaven should fall, we will all be wearing blue caps/hats). Huh?? Say what?? Can you clarify, as I’m not sure that would indeed be the case…
or how about stating the obvious:
- Als het regent in september, valt kerstmis in december
(Translation: If it rains in September, Christmas will be in December). Well now, you Dutch seem to be a pretty smart folk! Gosh darn it, I didn’t realize that was why Christmas seemed to be in December, e-v-e-r-y year!
or how about the always useful:
- Helaas, pindakaas
(Translation: Oh well, peanut butter). No explanation needed, right? Right?!
Some I still can’t wrap my head around and I will admit I certainly can’t hold back a giggle when a well-meaning Dutch person casually translates one of the below in English and carries on speaking as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
Now, don’t put that on your head!
I’ve been in many a meeting when someone has announced “Well now the monkey comes out of the sleeve” or “You can’t make chocolate from it!” I used to ask for an explanation, but I’ve since learned that often one doesn’t exist. You, well, just can’t make chocolate from it…
I’ll leave you with some very wise words of Dutch wisdom, one which I always try to follow: He who has butter on his head, should stay out of the sun! Got it?!? Good! Now carry on!