Category archives for: Language

Topography: Of peat, bogs and fens


In an incidental series of articles we have been examining how the topography of The Netherlands has been influenced by the requirement of the Dutch to actively manage the water in their environment. As part of an ongoing battle between the people of the country and the water surrounding them on all sides – and […]

Died: Drs. P.

drs p thumb

On June 16 a remarkable death notice appeared in Dutch newspapers NRC Handelsblad and De Volkskrant. It was a handwritten two stanza, eight line poem, adhering to the strict form and meter of the Ollebolleke (a Dutch adaptation of the Double Dactyl or Higgledy Piggledy – a form of light verse invented in 1951 by […]

News: Successful opening of Frisian play in Ontario


Pier21’s play Ja-Mei-My, which loosely translates to ‘Yeah, it’s me’ is a portrayal of the relationships between family members of different generations. Lighthearted, but not without several deeply moving emotional moments, the play centers around late middle-aged Klaasje and her ninety-six year old mother, who lives in a retirement home. Her mother phones Klaasje at […]

Tracks and Traces: The extinction of Jersey Dutch

Old Dutch cemetery in Paterson, New Jersey (photo: Ryan Vaarsi)

Like animal and plant species, languages are becoming extinct at an alarming rate. Although we cannot blame that on global warming, the trappings of modern society are clearly responsible. Globalization of communications, ever increasing international trade volumes and worldwide mobility of people have made English the undisputed lingua franca of the modern world. The aspirations […]

Language: Vibrant Frisian

A pair of wooden shoes decorated with the Frisian flag (Photo: Jetske)

On September 6th,  Leeuwarden, the capital of the province of Friesland, beat Maastricht and Eindhoven in its bid to become European Capital of Culture for 2018. Such a designation means prestige for a city and its surrounding area. It usually stimulates cultural activities in a way that ‘puts a city on the map’. In the […]

Letter: Naming ‘s-Hertogenbosch


I came upon an article in your magazine about our beautiful city ’s-Hertogenbosch. It is a real pity that you referred to the city as Den Bosch, while this historic place carries the beautiful and official name of ’s-Hertogenbosch. As a ‘s-Hertogenbosch native and a member of the Society for the promotion of the name […]

Genealogy: Recognizing Dutch last names

The letter combination 'ij' in action: Brewpub 't IJ on the banks of Amsterdam's other river , the IJ. (Photo: Calflier001)

For most of us our name is a precious possession that we carry with us all our lives. It often exposes our origin and sometimes our status in society. As I illustrated in the previous article in an era when not everybody was as literate as today, the spelling of a name might vary at […]

Infobox: Dutch last names and prefixes


Dutch prefixes The following prefixes may be encountered when researching Dutch last names: aan, aan ‘t, aan de, aan den, aan der, aan het, aan t bij, bij ‘t, bij de, bij den, bij het, bij t, boven d, boven d’ d, d’, de, de die, de die le, de van der, den, der, die […]

Infobox: Infix or Prefix


For sticklers the true translation of the Dutch word for the naming elements discussed in this article, ‘tussenvoegsel’, is ‘infix’. ‘Prefix’ would be translated as ‘voorvoegsel’. An infix is placed between two elements, in this case the first and last name. Infix is an uncommon word. Genealogical database programs usually refer to the element in […]

Language: Eating ‘Lekker’


I was once enjoying a particularly marvelous dinner in Paris where my host admitted he was at a loss what to say to an English speaker in place of bon appétit. I was quick to reassure him that our equivalent for bon appétit was bon appetit (probably without the accent). We just don’t have our […]