Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Friday, 1 December 2017

How to Catch a Dutch Owl (so necessary in December)

©Brigitta Huegel

Dear You, 

for me one of the most fascinating aspects of learning a new language is that it allows me glimpses into the character and poetic heart of another nation and culture.
The idioms, the proverbs, the sayings - daily life dances in new clothes!

So I learned a lot Dutch expressions for "THE NAP". (An endangered pleasure...)
Of course you can use the common word: "een dutje" - BUT: how much more vivid and colourful is the older phrase: "een uiltje knappen" - and though the experts quarrel about the first meaning (maybe something with catching a "butterfly"), there is no denying that "uiltje" is the owl that the exhausted man or woman is trying to catch... feathery...soft...tiny...and evasive...
There are many more ways to say (or hide) how you will spent your time after lunch -
but even my Dutch docent was flabbergasted when I served her my finest find:

"Ik ga een Engelse brief schrijven"
- isn't that a very genteel way to hide the truth of napping?

To write an ENGLISH letter (or better: write a letter in English)
is evidenty such a difficult affair

that absolutely nobody should dare to disturb your concentration!

          zz .. 



  1. Idioms are wonderful; the best part of a language.

    1. They often are the condensed wisdom of a nation - and sometimes very funny!

  2. My German friends tell me that Dutch and Germans understand each other perfectly, even if they do not speak in each other's languages.

    1. Yes and no, Tom. If you can speak Plattdeutsch (I can - and it is a very own language, not a dialect) than it is easier. And yes: a lot of words have French origin, and English influences - but though one might be able to read a newspaper, I doubt very very much that a German can follow a Dutch conversation. "Alsjeblieft" is for example the Dutch word for German "bitte" - so...

  3. All the Dutch people speak English very well.

    1. I agree, Rachel: they are very good in English - and what I adore: they do see movies in English - and not those ridiculous synchronisations they produce for the German movie fan.

  4. Being completely ignorant of the language of the Dutch I am terribly confused. I think I'll take a nap (in English). Chasing an owl does not sound restful.

  5. I like your commenty Emma! A Dutchman told me: it has nothing to do with catching the owl, but closing one's eyes like her on midday - and cuddle with her.

  6. All I know is that I am very good at the art of napping Britta ...... our family are well known for it !!! XXXX

    1. I am glad to read that, Jackie - so you saw my quote from a book of Barbara (?who?), "Endangered Pleasures" (a very nice book) - you are honouring a very wise custom. XXX

  7. Heeft u een Epson 288-printer die opnieuw moet worden gevuld? Zo ja, dan zal deze gids u alles vertellen over het bijvullen van Epson 288-inktpatronen.

    Voordat u doorgaat met de stappen, moet u een cartridge aanschaffen die u kunt bijvullen, aangezien deze een auto-reset-chip heeft die vanzelf wordt gereset. Bovendien hebben ze ingebouwde navulpoorten waardoor ze een stuk gemakkelijker te hervullen zijn in vergelijking met andere cartridges.
    Epson Nummer