By Mark van Engeland

 
Where of?

Don't believe them.

They'll try to tell you that it's not so, but they will be trying to fool you.
The thing they will attempt to burn into your mind is simply not true.
The Dutch do not have a word for 'of'!
Oh, they'll try to convince you that 'van' (trans: from; pron: vun) means of, or that 'door' (trans: through; pron: Homer Simpson 'doh'-r -- it's tricky, because the 'r' doesn't seem to want to be there) means of, or that one of a handful of other words means of, in different contexts; but it's all a tissue of evil, conniving lies.
There is no 'of' in Dutch.

Now, the Italians, they know their "of"s.  They will stick an 'of' where no respectable Englishman would ever dream of putting one.  It's 'di' this, 'di' that, and 'di' the other, in Italian.  You know where you stand with them.  You can trust them.
Not so the Dutch.
Be careful what you say, out there...

<Markie Buying Groceries mode on>

    van Engeland :  I'll have a kilo of apples, please.
    Dutch Shopkeeper :  Ovapples?  What are ovapples?
    van Engeland :  Eh?  Apples.  A kilo of apples, please.
    Dutch Shopkeeper :  So, do you want apples, or ovapples?  Because we haven't got any ovapples.
    van Engeland :  Hunh?
    Dutch Shopkeeper :  We don't have any ovapples.  Come back tomorrow.
    van Engeland :  You don't?  What are those, then?  {points at apples}
    Dutch Shopkeeper :  Those are apples.  We've got them.
    van Engeland :  Ah.  I wasn't imagining them, then.
    Dutch Shopkeeper :  No, we've got bags and bags.
    van Engeland :  Ok.  May I have a kilo of them, then, please?
    Dutch Shopkeeper :  Ovthem?  What are ovthem?  I don't think we have any.
    van Engeland :  But there they are!  {points at apples again}
    Dutch Shopkeeper :  Oh, so you still want the apples, too?
    van Engeland :  Shall I go back out and come in again?
    Dutch Shopkeeper :  Well, here are your apples.  Sorry about the other things.  Would you like anything else actually?
    van Engeland :  Well, I want neither ovapples nor ovthem, that's for sure!
    Dutch Shopkeeper :  'Neitherovapples'?  'Norovthem'?  What are they?  Can you buy them in England?
    van Engeland :  {sighing}  Yeah, that's right.  Just give me a couple of packets of stroopwafels, will you?
    Dutch Shopkeeper :  'Ovstroopwafels'?  What's ovstroop?  Is it made from ovapples?
    van Engeland :  Hunh?
    {Continue through every item on shopping list}

<Markie Buying Groceries mode off>

Neither neither nor nor exist in Dutch, either, by the way.  You can't say: 'I want neither ovapples nor ovthem'; you have to say: 'I don't want ovapples, and I don't want ovthem, too.'.
Before anyone complains that noch (pron: noh-*cough-hack*) means nor: it's an antiquated word, that no-one under 80 years old uses.

My half-baked translation dictionary even goes so far as to say that van means 'of' in the sentence: 'He comes of a good family'.
I don't know about you, but I'd say: 'He comes from a good family'.  You don't say: 'come of', you say: 'come from'!
It's all a smoke-screen.
I don't know what their plan is, but it's obviously devious and dastardly.  Who knows what will come of it?
Hell, I'm beginning to think like agent Double-0 PS!

<Double-0 PS mode on>

    Who does that van Engeland guy think he is?  James Bond?!?

<Double-0 PS mode off>

It's true that you can sometimes use 'van' where you would say 'of' in English; but van is still 'from'.  They just use 'from' slightly differently to the rest of us -- usually in prepositional use; where 'from' can be used, in English, but 'of' is used, instead.
Whoops!  Technical term alert!

<Sit Up And Pay Attention! mode on>

    A preposition is a word (normally a small word) which defines a physical (or sometimes abstract) relationship between two objects. Examples (nouns are in italics, prepositions are underlined):
    a) The thing was in the hole.
    b) The cat sat on the mat.
    c) Smethwick is where he is sailing to.

    That third example is a tricky one, for three reasons:
    i) The two nouns connected by the preposition could be argued either as being 'Smethwick' and 'he', or 'where' and 'he'.  The 'where and he' option is vaguely more correct, grammatically, but the way I have stressed it is more understandable.
    ii) Anyone who can sail to Smethwick is a better man than I, Gunga Din.  It's inland.
    iii) It is sort-of in error, because sentences should not really end with prepositions (called 'dangling' prepositions, when at the end of a sentence).  There is no actual rule of Grammar about this, but too many dangling prepositions make for harder reading; so they are best avoided, where possible.

<Sit Up And Pay Attention! mode off>

I have great fun with self-proclaimed linguistic experts who complain about dangling prepositions, because most of them don't have a clue what they are talking about.  Take the slightly-modified sentence:
Smethwick is where he is going to.
That sentence, unlike the previous version of it, does not end with a dangling preposition.  In fact, it doesn't contain a preposition at all!
'To go to' is a phrasal verb (or compound verb), and there is nothing whatever wrong with ending a sentence with a phrasal verb ('he is going to' is the third person singular masculine/generic of the present participle/continuous of 'to go to').
When in the company of these 'self-proclaimed linguistic experts', I take great care to end as many sentences as possible with a phrasal verb (or a postmodifying adjective, or in any of the other ways that use words which are sometimes used as prepositions), just so I can get their goat by soundly slapping them down when they try to 'correct' my grammar.

Ain't I the sweetest thing?

Another pair of words which is sort-of missing from the Dutch language is: 'much' and 'many'.
That is not to say that you can't state an undefined quantity, but that you can't make the distinction between plural, singular, and collective.  One word does it all.
Veel (pron: veil, with a v that's a cross between a v and an f) means 'much', and it also means 'many'.
Hoeveel (pron: who-veil, with the same v sound) means 'how much' and 'how many'.
This simplifies things for the learner of Dutch, as it means that it's one less word to learn, but I'm not too happy with the impreciseness of it.
For this reason, I am petitioning the masters of the Dutch dictionary to have the word 'lotje' added.
It works very simply:

<Dutch Dictionary Addition mode on>

    a)  A lotje is a singular undefined quantity of uncountable nouns (much) -- There's a lotje of water in the sea.
    b)  A lotjes is a singular undefined quantity of collective nouns (a lot) -- There is a lotjes of fish in the sea.
    c)  Lotsje is a plural undefined quantity of countable nouns (many) -- There are a lotsje of creatures in the sea.
    d)  Lotsjes is a plural countable quantity of collective nouns (lots) -- There are lotsjes of shoals of fish in the sea.

<Dutch Dictionary Addition mode off>

What could be simpler?
I mean, I made it up as I went along, so it must be right!
Write to everyone you know, and get them to badger Queen Beatrice into having the words added!

See you next time.

  -o0o-
 

 

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