The Dunglish mentality


Here’s a news item that manages to put a negative twist on some sort of good news: “De Rotterdamse Marokkaan is happy”, or “Moroccans in Rotterdam are happy”.

Besides the fact that the article is not newsworthy, using the word ‘happy’ for no good reason bugs me. Why, why, why does using English here actually make this any better? The article was shot down by more than 60 people.

But then, if you’re going to insult someone in the Netherlands, you might as well do it in English:“Roepen_’fuck_you’_naar_politie_geen_belediging”, or “Yelling ‘fuck you’ at the police is not an insult”. The story goes that a judge found these words “not very nice”, but not insulting! This is being appealed, so there’s some hope.

Conclusion: if swearing in English is not as good as in Dutch, how can a useless English word enhance a Dutch newspaper heading? Nice paradox.

10 Responses to “The Dunglish mentality”

  1. Larry says:

    Dutch people have been appropriating the word ‘happy’, for better or for worse (I guess tevreden, blij or gelukkig just doesn’t cut it sometimes), for about 40 years, maybe more. I see your point, but at this point it takes an outsider to object to this kind of usage (I see what you did there!), whereas everyone else took issue with whether the survey was relevant or meaningful.

  2. Branko Collin says:

    I find that when English words are used like this, it’s because the Dutch alternative would have been ambiguous. Gelukkig? Means two things. Voorspoedig? That’s not something you can be. Blij? Probably isn’t what the author meant.

  3. Nic says:

    Good point!

  4. Yoastie says:

    Please let there be no mistake: In English the word means happy, which is the same as ‘blij’ in Dutch. Nothing more and nothing less. Would allowing the use of the English word in this case imply that there is a dichotony that even the English themselves are not aware of?

  5. Larry says:

    I don’t buy the ‘ambiguity’ argument either. ‘Blij’ certainly doesn’t suggest anything different from ‘happy’.

    Daar ben ik niet blij mee.
    Daar ben ik niet gelukkig mee.

    Wim de Bie as Willem Oltmans: ‘Nee, daar is meneer Gorbatsjow niet happy mee!’

  6. sanne says:

    I do agree that the Dutch word “blij” wouldn’t be suitable here. “blij” has a connotation of cheerfulness. “Rotterdamse Marokkanen zijn blij” for me would imply that they walk around with big smiles on their faces all the time, rather than as it is intended that they are content with their lifes. “Rotterdamse Marokkanen zijn gelukkig” on the other hand does seem like a good alternative to me.

  7. Natashka says:

    On February 14 on RTL7 there was a report called “Nederlandse kinderen zijn gelukkig”. So it is possible to write properly.

  8. Branko Collin says:

    The correct translation, IMNSHO, would be something like: Marokkanen voelen zich goed; or: Marokkanen zitten goed in hun vel. That is IMO how “happy” is used in Dutch.

  9. Branko Collin says:

    Let me add that I “know” this the same way I know what other words and phrases mean in my mother tongue: because I deduced their meaning at one time from the context in which they were used.

  10. Jasper says:

    I still don’t get it why 3,4 times 2 = 7,4, according to the news item in the AD.

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