I was quite pleased with the fact that during this weekend’s Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague our Dutch politicians didn’t make embarrassing blunders while speaking English. At least, these mistakes have not been taped or rephrased, as far as I know. Many of us know, I think, the famous words our former premier Joop den Uyl once said: “We are a nation of undertakers”. Mr Den Uyl wasn’t aware of the meaning of the word “undertakers” and he meant to say: entrepreneurs. But unfortunately he translated the Dutch word “ondernemers” a bit too literally.
True versus right
No, our current premier Mark Rutte did fine. The only misstep that he supposedly made was that he answered Obama with: “You are true” instead of “You are right.” But hey, I think it must have been the nerves. Being the chairman is not easy, so I won’t say anything bad about this little flaw. However, some do, given the fact that a sudden discussion has emerged these days. Read more about it in the Dutch newspaper Trouw.
I’m still glad he didn’t say something like: “Please, people, go your gang” at the start of the meeting. Or: “I hate you all welcome and please, make yourself a home”. No, I’m sure he didn’t say that.
All of these phrases mentioned above should be considered as mild mistakes. Let’s be honest and be happy that our premier didn’t utter the following: “You are true, hoor!” That really would have been disastrous. Why? Well, we have this peculiar little tag in our Dutch language called “hoor”. It is a normal Dutch word, but if you say it in an English speaking group of people a few may really be surprised. Say it out loud and it listen to what you hear. You may wonder why we mention the prostitutes in our small country.
There is not a real equivalent to this Dutch word “hoor”. Maybe you can say something like: “mind you” or “indeed”. “Hoor” comes from the verb “horen” (to hear) and we like to say it after each and every sentence. We use it to soften an expression, though we don’t expect a response or answer. For example: “Ik snap hier niets van, hoor!” [Mind you, I don’t understand a word of this].
So, Mark, that was truly well-done!