Crowley spoke Dutch??

Half the fun of learning Dutch, for me at least, is hearing the echoes of an older English. (I’m pretty sure that Kind Alfred and his compatriots would have found the Zeelanders of their time intelligible, or nearly so.) On my way home from my second Dutch lesson tonight, I realized that Aleister Crowley, in trying to sound archaic, was very nearly speaking Dutch. “An ye will, so mote it be” translates to “Als je wil, zo moet het zijn” (I think – not sure about that weird case of ‘to be’ and if it would really take the infinitive form). I knew about “will” in the older English sense of “want”, as in “as you will”, but hadn’t realized the moet-mote connection before.

That last word is closer than it looks, too, because the Dutch for “to be” is almost as irregular as the English:
I am -> ik ben we are -> wij zijn
you are -> je bent you (pl) are -> julllie zijn
he is -> hij is they are -> zij zijn
Note that ‘hij’ and ‘zij’ are pronounced respectively as ‘hay’ and ‘zay’ (well, nearly) and the connections are closer still. Looking at it, I’d guess that the Dutch, like the English, evolved from the mashing up of two or three roots that meant slightly different flavors of “to be” – which gets even more likely when you reflect that Spanish still has two words for it, “ser” and “estar”

Of course Spanish is Romance while English and Dutch are Germanic, but they’re all Indo-European. Anyway, English has a strong Romance influence from the centuries when it was ruled by Normans (not that they ever lost power, just that they integrated) and Spain ruled the Netherlands for a while, plus there’s a lot of borrowing from French due to proximity.

Anyway, I thought it was cool. Dutch is easy for an English speaker with a good ear to pick up anyway – my mom was nearly reading menus after a week here – but my reading and studies on the history of English definitely helped a lot.

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