If I had a column in the Delft op Zondag

(Not the real)
Delft op Zondag


29 JANUARY 2017

OK, Mr. Rutte, I have it

DELFT - Netherlands' Prime Minister Mark Rutte, in a recent interview, said: "Act normal, or go away" in response to a bus job applicant who refused to shake women's hands. He said more: "Surely a driver can't say 'I refuse to shake a woman's hand because it doesn't fit my beliefs.'"

The conversation ended with Mr. Rutte remarking: "If you live in a country where you get annoyed with how we deal each other, you have a choice. Get out! You don't have to be here." He did not say my name, but I felt his hard stare. Granted he, and Holland, have been patient waiting for me to speak Dutch so I shall. First stop is a book store; there are 5 I know of and visit regularly. You Too Can Learn Dutch books are in plentiful supply.


"This bookshop is on my way to my grocer. On the right is a stand of books in English, and all the rest are in Dutch. Inside, bookcases go floor to ceiling. A person who likes to read could spend days there."

My partner was impressed as well and said that her grandmother had learned Esperanto. She carefully asked if I was going to start speaking Dutch to her and should she only answer in Dutch. We set rules in which she was free to correct as I erred and as she felt like it.

I read the preface of books I begin and am reassured to see: 'The chapter on pronunciation, though short, will be found to contain a great deal of useful information in simple, non-technical language'. Further along, I am encouraged to listen to the 'wireless' especially 'B.B.C.'s programmes in Dutch.' The contents page lists 34 chapters and topics. I hardly know English grammar much less the terminology. Sure nouns, pronouns and verbs but little more.

In one of the shops I like, I found Teach Yourself Dutch by H. Koolhoven. It was first printed in 1941, then again in 1952 (after spelling was agreed and standardized in 1947) and a final go in 1962. I liked the author's name and the editor's: Mr. Cutts.

My partner went to Kobus Koch today and returned with fresh (still warm) apple pie, so I asked her about Koolhoven. When I see the word 'kool' I think of 'cool'. Hoven looks like harbor, so the author was Coolharbor to me. But kool means cabbage.

Or, she went on, kool might mean coal. She also corrected my guess at hoven telling me it meant a courtyard. So the man's name might mean coal yard. But she thought cabbage court most likely. Rule 1: do not make fun of Dutch names.

My book is one of a series which in itself is interesting. It begins with Teach Yourself Afrikaans and goes down a list: Arabic, Chinese, English for Swahili-Speaking People, Esperanto and ends with Swahili, Urdu and Welsh.

This is going to be a climb, but my partner and Mr. Rutte himself are pushing me onward. In Chapter 1, I read: 'ordinary spelling does not show the consonant assimilation which is such a common feature of Dutch speech'. What? Oh well.

G. Wiley / NLStrabo - © Copyright - All rights reserved - gwileynl@gmail.com
In memory of Herb Caen