Dunglish


Dunglish is an interlanguage of Dutch and English sometimes known as Dutch English. It is a language term for the typical mistakes native Dutch speakers make when speaking English. Here are some examples of serious Dutch English linguistic accidents:

“I can stand my little man”
– Dries van Agt (former Dutch prime minister)

Transliteration of ik kan mijn mannetje staan, a Dutch idiom meaning roughly “I can stand up for myself”. The inevitable misunderstanding needs little explaining.

“Golden showers”
– Frits Bolkenstein (former leader of the Dutch Liberal Party)

Bolkestein repeatedly referred to economic prospects as “golden showers”, as he was clearly unaware of the term’s quite obvious sexual connotation.

“The Dutch are a nation of undertakers”
– Joop den Uyl (former Dutch prime-minister)

The Dutch verb ondernemen is literally the English verb to undertake (as onder is under, and nemen is take). The Dutch noun ondernemer is thus literally undertaker; in English however, the French loanword entrepreneur is used. (In Dutch, the word begrafenisondernemer means funeral director.)

“Goodbye”
– Pieter Gerbrandy (former Dutch prime-minister)

Gerbrandy once had a meeting with Churchill in London. Gerbrandy entered the room and shook Churchill’s hand, saying: “Goodbye!” Churchill responded: “This is the shortest meeting I have ever had.” Gerbrandy had erroneously translated the Dutch goedendag meaning “good day”, which in Dutch can be both used as a greeting and a valediction.

“I fok horses”
– Joseph Luns (former Dutch foreign secretary)

One of the best quoted examples of Dunglish was said to have taken place between the Dutch foreign minister Joseph Luns (a man whose main foreign language was French, the language of diplomacy prior to World War II) and John F. Kennedy. At one point Kennedy inquired if Luns had any hobbies, to which he replied “I fok horses” (the Dutch verb fokken meaning to breed). Likely taken aback by this strangely obscene reply, Kennedy asked “Pardon?”, which Luns then mistook as the Dutch word for horses (paarden) and enthusiastically responded “Yes, paarden!”

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