Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On Learning Dutch

I've been a bit absent lately, partly having to do with the fact that my computer is headed back to the states for repair, which means Dan and I are sharing his, so the process of uploading photos, new especially, has just gotten more annoying.

But in the mean time I've gone back to reading Harry Potter en de Geheime Kamer (aka the Secret Room) (aka the Chamber of Secrets).  At the rate I'm going, I'll be done in only 75 more hours.  Actually, I thought that number would have been higher.  It'll only take me 4 months or so; that's not that bad!

With the reading of something that is clearly above my reading level, I'm coming across a ton of new words (obviously), and I've started a list of the ones that I find the most awesome.  Some are simply amusing, and some send me into a long, somewhat ridiculous thought process about the English language.  Because that's one of the best things about learning a new language (at least one that English has strong ties to), some foreign words make you re-think the way you've always thought (or not thought) about a word you use all the time.  Anyway, that will be made clearer in a moment.  

So with that excessive introduction, here's my little list.

Vleermuis - literally, flying mouse--a bat  (and keep in mind that the 'ee' is pronounced as a long 'a', or like it's spelled 'flaer-mouse')

Tjokvol - this is one of those words that I'd have to do a bit of digging to find out if the Dutch came first or the English, as sometimes Dutch takes English words and changes the spelling to be more Dutch, but the word still sounds and means the same as the English word.  In this case 'tjokvol' is both pronounced (more or less) like it's English equivalent 'chock-full'.

Adem - this one is more philosophical, but it means 'breath', and the interesting thing is that it's akin to Adam, as in the first Adam.  I really like the tie-in.

Smaakvol - tasteful.  This is the one that sent me down the rabbit hole.  'Smaak' is a bit like 'tasty' or 'lip-smacking good'.  Not the understated elegance we associate the word 'tasteful' with.  'Tasteful' has nothing to do with 'full-of-flavor', but is it supposed to?  Did it originally?  On the tasteful to tacky spectrum, when someone several hundred years ago went into a room and saw the purple shag carpet and lime green throw pillows and pink walls did they think Wow! this is amazingly tasteful!   actually maybe they did, because men's garments in the late 1700's were those colors and everyone thought them at the epitome of taste and fashion.  Which got me thinking about a lecture I heard recently about how modern men dress and how it's the most boring it has ever been.  And it completely diverges from nature--think peacocks--in that men have always been the ones to put on the fashion show for prospective partners, and now they're in dark suits with a splash of muted color they call a tie--which we would call tasteful!  But maybe the peacocks and Louis XIV (or XVI if I want to stick with the time frame above) are actually the ones who are tasteful--they're certainly smaakvol!  So if I'm looking at a man in a well-tailored suit or a beige and cream colored living room, maybe I shouldn't be thinking about how tasteful it is, but how tasteless?  Hmmm, I wonder if 'smaaklos' is a word...

HA!  It is...although it's actually spelled 'smaakloos'

And that's why I love language.

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