Nederlinguistics

One interesting thing about Dutch is that it does borrow from other languages, though possibly not as much as English does. Of course, epople at work use English frequently even when speaking in Dutch; a lot of management jargon was clearly just imported straight over, though I’ve heard standard English words mixed in as well.

I’ve seen jus d’orange offered on breakfast menus and entrecote (steak) at dinner – we’re right near the Belgian border, so especially in this part of the Netherlands it’s not surprising to see French borrowings. But I was more delighted to learn that “mazzel” can be used to mean luck (I think mostly in slang). Obviously that’s got to be from Yiddish, uses the same word as the Hebrew mazel. (“Mazel tov” means congratulations, but literally translated it’s good luck.) There is a website that lists Dutch borrowings from Hebrew and Yiddish, but I find some of their claims suspicious. For instance, they claim “gajes” (rabble or riffraff) is from a Hebrew word for military unit but other sources (and my gut) say it’s more likely from “goy”, which originally meant nations and came to mean non-Jews in Yiddish. I don’t know where or if the Gypsy “Gorgio” (outsiders, nonRoma) factors into all this – it would help to know more of the Dutch etymology and early spelling. Currently “gajes” would be pronounced something like gah-yays, which definitely sounds linked to “goy”.

The Dutch word for baby is baby; I don’t know if it was originally borrowed from English or French. Depressingly for those of who get fed up with the misuse of apostrophes in English, the correct plural seems to be baby’s. Maybe all those people who use apostrophes to create plurals in English are not simply uneducated after all, but only influenced by Dutch usage?

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2 Responses to Nederlinguistics

  1. l'empress says:

    You reminded me of something deep in the reservoirs of my trivial memory: gentile also seems to come from a word meaning nations. I suppose the concept is “other nations,” i.e., them not us. Among the Mormons, the Jews are considered gentiles.

  2. Karen says:

    Dearest Dichroic, how I love reading of your adventures. The literal translation of “mazel tov” is “good stars” which is pretty much good luck in my book, but it’s interesting to know the meaning of the Hebrew words.

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