I’m going on vacation!

Until June 19th I’ll be driving through France and Italy.


Dunglish was recently mentioned on the blog of aquarius.net, the world’s biggest translation site, which happens to be a Dutch company.

dunglish website

Dutch politicians are a major source of spoken Dunglish. Their biggests blunders involve the use of expressions, which are the most difficult thing to master in any language.

– Apparently, Dutch prime minister Gerbrandy introduced himself to Churchill with “Goodbye, Mister Churchill!” Later, Churchill said this had been the shortest conversation he had ever had.

-Prime minister Joop den Uyl once called the Netherlands “a country of undertakers”, “undertaker”, a literal translation of “ondernemer” (entrepreneur).

-EU Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes came up with the following last year, which was quite embarrassing:

Kroes: “Don’t throw the baby in the water”
Dutch: “Niet het kind met het badwater weggooien”
English: “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”

Worse, she used an expression with no direct equivalent in English:

Kroes: “Who says A, must say the rest of the alphabet”
Dutch: “Wie A zegt, moet B zeggen”
English: Something like “you have to continue what you’ve started”

Former Dutch prime minister Dries van Agt apparently said:

Van Agt: “I can stand my little man”
Dutch: “Ik kan mijn mannetje staan”
English: “I can hold my own”

There are more of these stories out there, so let’s please collect them!

17 Responses to “I’m going on vacation!”

  1. cronopio says:

    Re your latest post, here are some Dunglish blunders made by politicians in the EU many years ago.

    “I don’t want to mow the grass before your feet” = “Ik wil u het gras niet voor de voeten wegmaaien” = “I don’t want to take credit for what you accomplished”.

    “Are you standing behind this point?” = “Staat u achter dit (stand)punt?” = “Do you support this issue?”
    The British politician to whom this question was directed answered, “I’m not standing anywhere, I’m sitting down.”

    And in what may be called “Frutch” (French mixed with Dutch), a Dutch politician speaking to a French politician once talked about “le ministre du milieu”.
    “Milieu” in Dutch means “the environment” (in the ecological sense), but in French, the word has a strong connotation with organized crime.

    Love the site, keep up the good work!

  2. Larry says:

    I think the politician responding to ‘standing behind this point’ was being disingenuously literal. In English, you can be said to stand behind an opinion/idea/(point of) view/statement, etc., if you endorse it, support it, subscribe to it, and so on. I also don’t think ‘(stand)punt’ really amounts to ‘issue’, just as ‘standpoint’ is a perspective but not equivalent to ‘standpunt’ (opinion, position).

  3. Larry says:

    Years ago I saw a cartoon by Jaap Vegter in which the protagonist went on an extended rant about how he wanted to make a break with Dutch literary tradition and was tired of its cultural baggage and that he would write in English only from now on. There then followed several frames without text in which the would-be author sat frowning at a blank page. Finally, in the last frame, he said to himself:

    ‘I don’t see it sitting anymore’ – is dat wel goed Engels?

  4. Natashka says:

    It’s viewpoint, not standpoint. Or point of view. That last story is great 🙂

  5. monique says:

    my dictionary says that there indeed is an equivalent for ‘wie a zegt, moet ook b zeggen’: it’s ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’

  6. Natashka says:

    Hey, thanks! As a North American, I guess I hadn’t thought of that one 🙂

  7. Caroline says:

    How about ‘you made your bed, now lie in it?’

  8. Natashka says:

    That’s quite negative. The comment was most probably meant to be neutral. Monique is right.

  9. Larry says:

    Sorry to disappoint you, but ‘standpoint’ is a legitimate English word.

    Cambridge Dictionary:
    noun [C]
    a set of beliefs and ideas from which opinions and decisions are formed:
    “I have to put aside my emotions, ” he says, “and consider it from a professional standpoint.”

    Main Entry: stand·point
    : a position from which objects or principles are viewed and according to which they are compared and judged
    [Webster’s Intl Dictionary gives the etymology as German Standpunkt, which is ‘point of view’ or ‘viewpoint’]

    The problem arises when it’s used Dunglishly, i.e., indiscriminately, to mean ‘opinion’ when in fact it refers to perspective or orientation to an issue or object. As usual, Van Dale is ambiguous and not explicit enough in delineating the nuances (possibly because their lexicographers are not aware of them). Their NL-EN dictionary gives two main definitions for ‘standpunt’, the second of which ([plek waar men staat]) would be the natural place for ‘standpoint’ (with a caveat of some sort) and ‘perspective’, but they’re not there, as well as ‘position’ and ‘viewpoint’ (both of which they do list). The first definition given, though, is [opvatting] (why not ‘mening’ as well?] and the first translation listed is ‘stand(point)’. Gah! The others are ‘attitude’ (mwah), ‘stance’ (fine), ‘viewpoint, point of view, position, opinion’ (all okay).


  10. Natashka says:

    Thanks for clearing that up! The Van Dale still confuses me even after all these years.
    Can I blame it on the heat? 😉

  11. Larry says:

    The Van Dale people seem to like being exhaustive in useless/imprecise definitions (I tend to pencil things in it when I’ve finally come up with a suitable translation, no thanks to the dictionary). I’m particularly bothered by their use of the =/= symbol (‘not equal to’) to mean ‘not quite the same’ rather than ‘not the same at all’.

  12. Natashka says:

    Many dictionaries do that. I see it as a nice joint venture between the Dutch and Flemish. What bugs me is the mixed use of British and American English. It comes across as sloppy. The Dutch-French Van Dale is very Belgian IMHO, which is also problematic.

  13. Larry says:

    Mixed use in the dictionary, or in general? I’ve been through translation processes where the client has specified British spelling but successive drafts (where the client has had a go at doing some translation) have had ‘center’ and the like added as ‘corrections’.

  14. Natashka says:

    Then I won’t tell you about my work 😉

  15. Larry says:

    Oh go on, tell me about your work!

  16. Natashka says:

    The way I see it, it if wasn’t for Dunglish or Franglais, I’d have to be doing something else 🙂

  17. Marieke Hensel says:

    Hi Natasha,

    Love your weblog! I’ll keep it in the holes 😉


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