X-Ing It Up: Meandering Musings of a Past-It Professor SpecGram Vol CLXXXVI, No 3 Contents Extremist Linguistics—Dennis Dossier

Frank isn’t the only Quipley who finds himself on adventures of dubious credibility. His nephew Josh reports on a surprising discovery from his recent trip to The Netherlands.

Josh Quipley just returned from Amsterdam. While the primary purpose of his visit was research into Dutch coffee,1 he also conducted inquiries into the Dutch language. It turns out that this is easier said than done, because, for the most part, the Dutch have stopped speaking Dutch!

On his entire trip, which comprised Schiphol2 Airport to downtown Amsterdam and back, Josh heard almost no Dutch whatsoever. In every spoken interaction he had, the locals spoke a flawless English that may be even better than his own.3

The written language tends to be more conservative, and Josh notes that he saw a good mix of “old-timey” Dutch signs and modern English signs. Almost all of the signage in the airport, right down to the advertising, is in English. In contrast, the train uses Dutchand a very rude Dutch at that!4 Josh points out that this is consistent with his hypothesis, since trains are a relic of the past and air travel is the future.

If writing is conservative, toponymy is even more so, with almost all of it being in Dutch. But even in this domain, Josh has made a surprising discovery: many place names are derived from older varieties of English. Josh spoke highly of the friendly women in Amsterdam near the Oude Kirk, which he claims clearly comes from “auld kirk” in Scots. On one of his many visits to the area, he got lost and stumbled upon the Nieuwmarkt. This must come from English English, he contrastively reduplicated, reduplicating the pronunciation /njuːːː/ a few too many times for those of us in the audience. “The Dutch used so many vowels at the beginning that they forgot the e at the end!” Josh claimed that the name of the capital itself comes from a Cockney pronunciation of “hamster dam”, possibly referring to an old dam on the Thames near the gigantic hamster wheel.5

Josh will continue his botanical and mycological research in Denver before his next “scholarly” trip to Dresden. We fully expect that he will return with a new theory about how the Saxons marched eastward from Britain across Europe, with the Netherlands being only their first stop.

We’re not sure what Josh was smoking, because we’ve met plenty of people who speak Dutch. On the other hand, we’ve never met a Dutch person who wasn’t fluent in English. Our editors say Don’t Believe It! ... Or Do?

1 Or so we infer, based on his pictures of coffeeshops displaying prominent representations of plants that don’t look very much like Coffea arabica.

2 We think Josh pronounced this /ʃɪp hoʊl/. Regardless, we think it’s a lovely airport.

3 Anyone who has ever met Josh would not doubt this element of the story.

4 The photo he presented here translates to “You [formal] can change here for” trains to various destinations. We have no idea what he was talking about.

5 We think he’s referring to the London Eye, but we honestly have no clue.

X-Ing It Up: Meandering Musings of a Past-It Professor
Extremist LinguisticsDennis Dossier
SpecGram Vol CLXXXVI, No 3 Contents