9 June – Dutch Feast

John Camden Hotten was one of the first and best lexicogaphers of slang. He gathered and documented what he himself described as “that evanescent, vulgar language, ever changing with fashion and taste… spoken by persons in every grade of life, rich and poor, honest and dishonest”. One result of his indefatigable quest for the language of “fast, high and low life” was the publication, in 1859, of A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words. On the day Hotten died in 1873 (of brain fever, or a surfeit of pork chops, depending on which historian you ask) he was still revising his work.

Among the back slang and rhyming slang, and the patter from sailors and shopkeepers, are such expressions as a “Dutch uncle”, defined by the author as “a person often introduced in conversation, but exceedingly difficult to describe”. A “Dutch concert”  is one in which “each performer plays a different tune”, and “Dutch consolation” is simply “Thank God it’s no worse”.

These less well-known Dutch formulae sit alongside those that have endured to this day; “Dutch courage”, namely false courage garnered through drinking; “double Dutch”, i.e. gibberish; and “going Dutch”, where everyone splits the bill and thus risks the suggestion of miserliness. But why Dutch?

In the seventeenth century, the Dutch and British were at loggerheads. Both sought maritime superiority, and not least the control of the sea routes that carried exotic cargo from the rich Spice Islands of the East Indies. The result of such vying for supremacy was three naval wars between the years 1652 and 1674. On 9 June 1667, the Dutch sailed up the Medway, sank multiple British ships, and blockaded the Thames. The ensuing bitterness on the part of the British resulted in “Dutch” becoming synonymous with such unappealing qualities as cowardice and stinginess.

Today, even while most prejudice towards our friends in the Netherlands has long since vanished, a couple of contemporary examples might occasionally feel useful. A “Dtuch reckoning” is a bill that is presented without any detail and which only gets bigger if you question it, while a “Dutch feast” is one at which the host “gets drunk before the guests”.

Word Perfect, Etymological Entertainment for Every Day of the Year by Susie Dent

May 5th, Liberation Day

I can’t help but get emotional on this day, each year. Watching chancellor Angela Merkel give the traditional speech, and afterwards answering questions from students, was amazing. The topic is on freedom, and what it means, especially in a time where our freedom has been limited due to the consequences of the pandemic. One of the students explained how her grandfather was sent to a labour camp in Germany. She said that the blood of his imprisonment coursed through her veins; that the consequences of that could still be felt two generations later. I often feel the same way, when I consider how the war has influenced my parents, and in turn me.

This is why I have a hard time with people who lack empathy for underprivileged people. Generational poverty, racism, classism, sexism, other types of bigotry; it all leaves enormous scars. The Dutch government was culpable in the incredible persecution of Dutch Jews. Recently, the Dutch government apologised for their role in that atrocity. It frustrates me enormously to then also see how the Dutch government does not take the same step and acknowledge that there is (or at least has been) systemic bigotry against certain people which can still be felt today. Wouldn’t it be a good first step to accept the criticism of painful symbols of bigotry, like zwarte Piet?

So That Only Took Twenty Years

Did you ever faintly remember a song or film you encountered when you were very young, only to be reminded of it decades later, but didn’t remember the name of it? Every six to twelve months I tried googling this one roleplaying game that my cousin owned for the Commodore 64. I remember thinking it was fantastic and I remember it being incredibly sophistic for its time. I remember it came with a huge map but I couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was called.

Times of Lore, finally.

Now I just need to remember that strange, post-apocalyptic film that I once watched at my aunt’s home when I must have been about seven or eight years old. I remember it being kind of like Mad Max, but then with enormous, mutated insects.

Sibling Roles

I would like to think that my siblings and I are quite close. We talk every day, but still maintain a healthy separation and aren’t up in each other’s business (most of the time). We’re supportive and encouraging and we genuinely like each other. That is not to say that we don’t disappoint each other from time to time, or step on each other’s toes, of course. After all, the Meijer blood is strong.

What I like is that we have very different one-on-one relationships with each other; there is something that each combination of two of us share, that the third isn’t involved in. There are times where my siblings do stuff together that I am not that interested in, and likewise there are moments where I do something with one of them that the other isn’t involved in. There’s a fine line to walk that we don’t make one of us feel excluded, of course, but so far I think we’ve always been able to address it when it came up.

One of the things I was thinking of is that, when the three of us are together, we all have very different roles. I think those roles might be perceived differently depending on which one of us you ask, but from my perspective; my sister is our heart and soul, she embodies where we came from and represents our identity. My brother represents our untroubled nonchalance; everything is going to be okay, nothing is a problem and everything is possible.

I don’t quite know what my role is, necessarily. I’d like to believe that I’m our enabler!