The Flexibility of the Dutch Language

Something that we noticed during my recent study of the German language is the tremendous promiscuity of Dutch with English which goes even further than I had previously noticed. We all know the usage of many English words in Dutch as if they were our own, but I wanted to pay attention here to a special case: the fully imported verb.

These are present in phrases such as:

‘Hij kon het niet meer handelen.’ – “He couldn’t handle that anymore.”
‘Ik loop hier onwijs te struggelen.’ – “I’m struggling like a fiend here.”
‘Dat gaat niet happenen.’ – “It’s not going to happen.”
‘Hard hosselen.’ – “Hustlin’ hard.” (special case)

There are a couple of things to pay attention to.

Firstly Dutch people pronounce almost all of the English words they use as if they were Dutch. You can oppose this with Germans using words such as ‘clever’ or ‘teenager’ with the (more or less) proper pronunciation. In Dutch we will say ‘fuck’ a lot, but we won’t pronounce it \ˈfək\ but more like \ˈfɵk\. It’s a subtle difference, but especially on the ‘u’ vowels it is very audible.

This same mechanism is at play here, the imported verbs are pronounced as if they were Dutch, but the familiarity between the languages goes even further. The English words are conjugated into faux Dutch infinitives to make them fit into the Dutch sentences. I don’t know if there is a word for this use of loan words with conjugations.

‘Hard hosselen’ is a special case because there the English word ‘hustle’ has been assimilated even further so that it is hardly recognizable anymore.

Talking in this fashion is very poor form but also very convenient which makes us use these kinds of phrases all the more. If you have more (or more extreme) examples or can shed some linguistic light on this, please put it in the comments.

One thought on “The Flexibility of the Dutch Language”

  1. ‘Challengen’ instead of ‘uitdagen’ and ‘focusen’ instead of ‘concentreren’. These are called barbarisms or loanwords. According to my old etymologisch woordenboek the word ‘pierewaaien’, which sounds completely Dutch, is borrowed from a Russian word. I guess a loanword is better, or more fun than the original, like hosselen and pierewaaien, and a barbarism is ugly, like challengen.

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