Those idiom Dutch

Before you start; the title is exactly what it’s supposed to be. There is no typing error. Besides, the letter you thought of is too far away from the ‘m’.
So please cobbler, stick to your last.

And that ladies and gentlemen is a careful introduction on what this topic is all about.


I’m talking about idioms and according to good old Wikipedia, an idiom is a combination of words that have a figurative meaning owing to its common usage. An idiom’s figurative meaning is separate from the literal meaning.

Want another example? Just look at the picture above.

How to use idioms; Dutch style

Let’s investigate on how the Dutch use idioms by introducing Kees. Kees is a Dutch sailor who sees himself as ‘man of the world’ even though he hasn’t sailed that much yet. Kees also likes to speak in idioms and proverbs (or as Kees would say: We love to talk in speakwords).

sailor Kees

Kees is one of those people who thinks he has mastered the English language. What he doesn’t realise is that half the time he is completely misunderstood (or not understood at all). Now why is that? To show this I would like to invite you to the wonderful world of ‘Dutch idiomicy’ (is that even a word? If not it should be).

True story:
The year is 1989 and we have ‘parked’ our Navy ship in Newcastle for the weekend. Kees has comfortably settled himself at the bar of a local pub. Let’s follow a piece of his conversation with the bartender.

Kees (entering bar): Hello bartender, what a dogweather huh?
Bartender: Eh, I assume you are talking about the rain?
Kees: Yeah, it’s raining pipesteels. Looks like the weather at home.
Bartender: And where is home?
Kees: The Netherlands. I am Dutch in heart and kidneys
Bartender: Oke (?), can I get you something to drink?
Kees: Thanks, a beer would be nice. And keep em coming because I’m not sitting on black seed.
Bartender: Right. Don’t know what you just said but beer it is my friend.


So did you see how we Dutch use our idioms? I think you did, didn’t you?
We tend to literally translate our idioms and proverbs. But don’t judge us too harshly because we actually don’t do this on purpose. More educated people will try to find the correct proverb in English, but the majority just speaks as our good friend Kees does. Dutch people talk in idioms all the time so it makes perfect sense that we do this in English as well.
We even have a world-famous Dutch person who is a true master in Dutch idiomicy. This person is soccer coach Louis van Gaal.

I am not going to try to explain why we do this. Just accept it, that’s much easier. If you have to deal with the Dutch on a regular basis you better get used to it fast because the Dutch are not easy to educate and/or altered.

Fun fact: We Dutch speak in idioms in any language we (think) we speak.
So Spanish, German and French people; you better make your chest wet.


One response to “Those idiom Dutch

  1. Pingback: The Clog mystery revealed | A Dutch perspective·

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