Dutch Idioms and Expressions
Language is a major part of a culture. There are definte cultural differences that come across in the way people communicate. We have often found it interesting to see how concepts are expressed in Dutch. We have been including a Dutch idiom or expression in our e-mail update each month. Even though we are no longer in Holland, we are leaving this page on our website simply because so many people found it fun and interesting!
"Alles lijkt weer koek en ei, totdat..." (literally -Everything seems like cookie and egg again, until...')
We shared the expression 'koek en ei' shortly after we got to Holland (check the bottom of this list of idioms). We still don't know what cookies and eggs have to do with each other or why they are used to indicate that something is simple, but in this Dutch idiom they are inseparable! With the transitions that we find ourselves in, we come in and out of the place where things seem to be moving along smoothly, until....until the next e-mail, until the next question is asked, etc.! Oh the joys of learning something new!
'De mens wikt, maar God beschikt' - (literally - Man proposes but God disposes)
There are many expressions in Dutch that come from biblical references. This comes close to Proverbs 16:9 "Man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." The roles that God has placed us in are not ones that we sought, or ever even dreamed would be a part of our lives. We have made plans and moved in those directions, but it has been God who has directed our steps to where He has us now. May we always be sensitive to His leading whether it matches up with our own ideas and plans or not!
'We zullen dat varkentje wel even wassen' (literally -We will certainly get that piglet washed')
The expression is used to indicate that you will take care of something, fix something or get the job done. As I read it I was thinking of all the learning and training that we need to accomplish in order to function well in our new roles. It is a lot to learn and do, but 'we will get that piglet washed'!
'Het is altijd rouwen en trouwen.' (Literally translated "It is always mourning and marrying.")
The meaning of the saying is that life is an alternation between good and bad times. We quote this this month as we think of the awesome job that the Dutch did in the winter Olympics and even the World Cup followed by mourning over the loss of almost 200 Dutch lives when Malaysian Airlines flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine.
'Ieder kaasje heeft zijn gaatje.' (literally: Every cheese has its hole.)
Used to express that we all have our flaws, or 'Nobody's perfect'. While on a short vacation in South Dakota at the end of the summer, we visited a church with the motto "No perfect people allowed." (Okay, so they don't mean to imply that Jesus isn't welcome there!) We were glad to know that we were welcome and in good company! Like all of you, we certainly 'have our holes'!
'Het Spaans benauwd krijgen' (become Spanish breathless)
This idiom refers to a state of fear or anxiety. Associating this with Spain goes back to the times when Spain was the oppressor, during and prior to the Eighty Years War. There have been may events around the world this summer that resulted in fear and anxiety in the lives of people. We are so grateful to serve a God who fills our lives with peace no matter what the circumstances around us may be!
"het bijltje erbij neergooien" (Throwing down the hatchet)
This means stopping with what you are doing because you have lost interest or are simply tired...i.e. giving up This is definitely NOT what we are doing! We are not only continuing in ministry, but we are expanding our potential impact!
"Een frisse neus halen" (getting a fresh nose)
A quick Google search restulted in a list of 39 Dutch idioms revolving arond the word 'nose'! The one we chose to share with you this time came up in conversations with a friend of ours in Munich. It simply means 'going outside'. In America we might say, getting some fresh air.
"Leven als God in Frankrijk" (Living like God in France)
There are two primary meanings given to this expression: 1. loose living without God or rules and 2. carefree and luxureous living. The origin of the expression is uncertain. One source says that it comes from the period from 1792-4 when religion was put aside in France in favor of reason. The idea is that God no longer had much to do in France and had thus a carefree life there. Another possible origin comes from Spain. It could originally have been 'Leven als Goten in Frankrijk' referring to a proud people group in the last quarter of the 4th century who refused to surrender to the Huns. They fled to France where they integrated into a life of loose and carefree living. This expression came to mind because life for many people that we know has certainly not been carefree this past month but also applies to so many of our friends here who live godless lives.
"Tegen windmolens vechten" (fighting against windmills)
While this is used as a Dutch idiom, it actually came from the story of Don Quijote. It refers to either fighting imaginary enemies or fighting an unwinnable battle. We know that we don't fight against flesh and blood, but again the powers of darkness (Eph. 6:12) but we also know that He who is us is greater than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). Praise God that we don't have to fight against windmills and that we don't fight alone!
"Ik ben helemaal gaar" (I am completely cooked)
This doesn't mean the same thing as, for example, "Your goose is cooked" in American slang. It is used to indicate that you are completely worn out. By the time that December 27 came around, we were both 'helemaal gaar'! It has been great to have a couple of weeks with a much slower pace to be able to catch our breath again and get a new wind heading into ministry in 2012!
This is more a word than an idiom, but it gets used in an idiomatic sense. It officially means 'threshold' but is also used to describe speed bumps (or 'sleeping policemen' for those who speak more British English!). It is also very commonly used to indicate something that forms an obstacle for someone. When the one gentleman who came to our booth said that he only went to church once a year because the 'drempel' was too high, he meant that it was just too big of a step for him to take. We often need to lower the 'drempels' that keep people from hearing the gospel. Want some good easy tips on living a missional life? Check out this article from ChurchLeaders.com.
"Hij weet waar Abram (Abraham) de mosterd haalt" (He knows where Abram (Abraham) gets the mustard)
The idea of this idiom is that someone is aware of something. We have found 3 explanations of this expression. The first one says that mosterd' really came from the word 'mutsaard' that meant 'bundle of branches' or 'firewood' and is a reference to Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac. Another eplanation says that it comes from a Yiddish word for 'money' The third explanation says that Abraham was an everyday young man who was sent on an errand...i.e. to go get some mustard. . The first explanation is not considered accurate because in Genesis 22 no one is questioning where to get the firewood, but the question is rather where the sacrificial lamb is. The second explanation is also put aside because you find similar expressions using the word 'mustard' in German idioms. So the most accepted answer is that some kid named Abraham knew where to find a pot of mustard!
"er als een haas vandoor gaan" (leaving like a hare) - taking off quickly
"het haasje zijn" (being the little hare) - being the dupe
'haasjeover" (little hare over) - a children's game - we would call it "leap frog"
"Hij heeft haas gevreten" (He ate hare) - he is a scaredy/fraidy cat
"Hij koos het hazepad" (He chose the hare path) - he took off - fled
"Een hazenslaap" (a hare sleep) - a very light sleep from which someone wakes up at the slightest noise.
Believe it or not, there are still more idioms and expressions that have to do with hares! Maybe we'll save them for Easter!
"weet hoe de hazen lopen" (know how the hares walk)
This past week, in an e-mail exchange with our new pastor, he used this expression. I had never heard it before, but understood from the context exactly what he meant. He used it in the sense of 'I don't know yet how things work here.' I looked it up in our dictionary to see what the formal definition was and discovered that the official saying is: 'Kijken hoe de hazen lopen' (Looking/seeing how the hares walk) It was defined as working cautiously and first waiting to see how the relationship structure works. In the process, I discovered just how many Dutch expressions have to do with hares! This subject...to be continued!
"Als de herder verdwaalt dolen the schapen" (If the shepherd gets lost the sheep wander around)
In other words, if a leader goes off in a wrong direction or does something wrong, the sheep don't quite know what to do. Our church has had its share of spiritual attack on the leadership in the last year. Just recently, one of our remaining cell leaders walked away from the faith. Pray that God will strengthen the leadership in the church. Pray that the 'sheep' won't wander aimlessly around but will stand firm in the face of spiritual warfare. Pray as well for the leaders who are feeling the brundt of that spiritual attack.
"Hij heeft het hondegeloof, hij heeft het vlees liever dan de botten" (He has 'dog' faith. He would rather have the meat than the bones.)
This is a saying that means that when someone is asked what faith he tolds to, he chooses the best that he is offered. We have a friend who is currently choosing to believe in what feels the best to him and what matches his own ideas and thoughts. What he doesn't understand is that he is NOT choosing the best!
"Ze is met een natte vinger te lijmen" (She can be glued with a wet finger)
In other words, she is easy to convince to participate in something. I guess if something can be glued down with just a wet finger it would imply something that doesn't take a lot of effort to complete! In a society where people like to think and talk long and hard before making a move, this doesn't seem to happen much!
"Nu breekt mijn klomp!" (Now my wooden shoe is breaking!)
In other words, 'I am totally amazed!' or 'I certainly didn't expect that!'. (It ceratinly would be something unexpected for a sturdy wooden shoe to break!) I usually try to find an idiom that has a connection with what we have been experiencing. This one actually came up in a novel that I was reading. I hadn't heard it before, but found it to be an interesting way of expressing astonishment. We can say that whatever we expected from the man from the Dutch tax department, we didn't expect that he would go above and beyond the call of duty and call us to give us the good news. Also, we weren't expecting to have such a good pastoral candidate this soon. We just love it when God surprises us with such good things!
"Op een stille zee kan iedereen stierman zijn" (On a calm sea everyone can steer the boat)
Okay, we're cheating a bit here. This is a Flemmish expression rather than one from Holland, but it is still in Dutch! Our dictionary explains it as "Under difficult cirmstances it becomes apparent who can stand at the helm...who can lead". The situation with Chris' dad is not an easy one. Neither is dealing with tax departments in any country! But we are convinced that it is God who needs to be at the helm of our ship no matter how calm or how stormy the sea may be! He is the helmsman that will never lose control of the boat and can steer it exactly where it needs to go!
"appeltje eitje" (little apple little egg)
This expression is used to indicate that something is very easy. It probaby is an expansion of "dat is een eitje' (that is a little egg) meaning something that is easy to do or is something that you can do with very little effort In recent years the expression has been expanded and combined with "voor een appel en een ei" (for an apple and and egg) which originated in the 18th century. The meaning of that original expression is that something can be done for very little money or easily Appeltje eitje is fairly recent combination of the two expressions. It was used this week in an e-mail update about a girl in our church in Holland who has recently been diagnosed with leukemia. Not to say that chemo is all that easy, but her mother used it to describe how she has been dealing with her illness and treatments so far. However, her hair is beginning to fall out and the medical appointments and treatments aren't all that easy for an 11 year old to deal with. Please be praying for Joy and for her mother Marjet and father John.
"Iemand in het zonnetje zetten" (Setting someone in the little sun)
This phrase expresses that you are recognizing and honoring someone for something they have done. It could be compared to putting someone on center stage or turning the spotlight on them. This is the phrase that was used by the Evangelical Broadcasters when they called Terri about the interview. They wanted to interview someone who is putting hands and feet to their faith and 'set them in the sun'.
"De koek is op" (The cookies are used/eaten up)
This is a way of saying the the party is over, but we enjoyed it. So regarding all of the Christmas festivities, we can now say, de koek is op....but we are gratefuly for God's blessing and protection during this busy season!
"Het verdwijnt als sneeuw voor de zon" (It disappears like snow in the sun)
In other words, something disappears very quickly...which God's grace will never do! This past week we've gotten the first snowfall of the season. Yesterday we got just a wee bit of sun and some of the snow started melting, but today it has been snowing again all day....so our snow isn't likely to diappear very quickly! We managed to buy the very last snow shovel that our local garden center had in stock!
"Het is alsof een engel over mijn tong fietst" ("It's as though an angel is biking over my tongue.")
This is a funny way to say that something tastes really good! Because of the similarity in sounds, kids have a tendancy to say instead "Het is alsof en engel op mijn tong piest" (It's like an angel is peeing on my tongue"). At least one friend of ours, an adult, uses the 'kid version'...I think we'll stick to the original one! With Sinterklaas (December 5) coming up quickly the store shelves are full of pepernoten (small, bite sized spice cookies). Terri is especially hooked on the chocolate covered ones! They are like an angel biking over your tongue!
'Hij heeft er geen kaas van gegeten' (He hasn't eaten any cheese from there)
This idiom means that someone doesn't know anything (or not much) about something. During Open Monument Day in September, the city of Alkmaar was handing out postcards with a picture of Alkmaar and the question "Heb jij hier kaas van gegeten?" (Have you eaten any cheese from here?). It had a double meaning. Alkmaar is a cheese town, so someone could ask if you had eaten any cheese from Alkmaar. But the city was using it to promote working for the city. On the back side was the following text (translated): "Are you interested in a city that is rooted in history but also looks to the future? And are you interested in a challenging job in a many sided city? Then you have 'eaten cheese' from Alkmaar!"
'hoog van de toren blazen' (blowing..i.e. like a trumpet...high from the tower)
This idiom comes from the tower sentry who blew a trumpet when there was a fire as a warning to everyone. While we were in Krakow we were able to be up in the church tower when the trumpeter blew his melody. The story there is that a trumpeter in the 13th century was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before the Mongol attack on the city. The trumpet signal still ends today in mid-note to commemorate this event. (We have a link to pictures from Poland and the trumpeter on our website.) This Dutch expression now refers to someone who has a big mouth and making a lot of demands. We might say that someone 'has a big mouth' .
"achter de net vissen" (fishing behind the net)
This idiom was used in one of the articles we translated and put on our website. It is the picture of someone who is fishing in the wake of a fishingboat that just drug a net along and scooped up all the fish. There are no more fish in the water. It is used to say that someone missed there chance or came too late to benefit from something. Someone beat you to it.
"iemand in het zonnetje zetten" (setting someone in the little sun)
This phrase is used to indicate that you are recognizing/giving honor to someone. It was used during the weekend when we were thanking the BSL team for coming over from England to help. It also applies to the recognition evening that we are planning for GEM's annual conference. In the latter case, we are recognizing those who have reached various service milestones, but what we really want to do is to put God in the spotlight!
"Hij heeft een klap van de molen beet" or "een klap van de molen gehad hebben" - (He's been hit bij the mill) -
Someone who is not acting very wisely - as though he was hit by one of the sails on the windmill and has lost his mind as a result of it.
" 't gaat op rolletjes"- (it is going on rollers) -
Under the cap of the windmill are rollers that allow for the top part of the windmill to be turned so that the sails are facing into the wind. The rollers need to be kept in good condition so that the cap of the mill can be easily turned. This expression is used to indicate that something is going smoothly.
"De molen is door de vang" - (the windmill is though the vang)
The vang is the clasp that the turning axle is attached to. If the mill is 'though the vang' then it is out of control, it can't be stopped and accidents can happen. So the expression refers to something being hopeless.
"In de nesten zitten of werken" - (sitting or getting into the nests)
Millers have to keep the area where the rollers are free of birds nests. If birds get in there and build their nests, it messes up the ability of the rollers to turn the cap of the windmill and creates an all round mess. I've seen this expression defined as 'getting yourself into trouble' and 'being confused or not quite knowing what to do"
"huilbaby" - (cry baby)
Despite the connotations of the English translation, a huilbaby "is not someone who makes a huge fuss about not very much, but a baby who cries a lot According to Dutch childrearing experts, to be classed as a huilbaby, a child has to cry for three hours a day, three days a week for three weeks in a row. According to the press, one in 10 Dutch babies is a huilbaby." (quoted from A Dictionary of Dutchness published by DutchNews.nl, 2009) Wonder why I chose to post this? We have several friends who have had babies lately...there seems to be a baby boom on here! This Sunday one of the new babies will be dedicated during the church service. One friend does seem to have a huilbaby...although we're not sure if he is crying enough to fit the definition of the childrearing experts, he does keep our friends awake at night!
"Paarse krokodil" - (purple crocodile)
This phrase "has become a symbol for unnecessary bureaucracy and a 'more-than-my job's-worth' mentality among officials and has given its name to a variety of initiatives to slash red tape. It comes from a 2005 Ohra insurance advert in which a mother could not reclaim her daughter's blow-up crocodile from a swimming pool attendant until she had filled in numerous forms." (quoted from A Dictionary of Dutchness published by DutchNews.nl, 2009)
"gipsvluchten" - (cast flights)
Every winter Dutch residents are injured in sking accidents outside of Holland (We don't have hills here to ski on.) "Gispvluchten bring injured skiers back from their winter sport holidays. Every year over a 1000 skiers are brought back to Holland on around 150 special flights. The first planeload of passengers with limbs enshrouded in plaster casts usually touches down in the Netherlands a couple of days after the ski season opens." (quoted from A Dictionary of Dutchness published by DutchNews.nl, 2009)
"zout kaartjes" (salt tickets)
In December there were lots of problems with the trains not being able to run because of the ice and snow. The cold weather froze many of the connection points on the tracks and the flames at the gas warmed change points went out. The Dutch government ran out of salt for both roads and train tracks. They had stocked up enough for a normal type of winter, but the snow and ice we've had is definitely far beyond normal. So the Dutch railways offered some special deals including giving everyone a 40% discount on certain days. They called those special tickets "salt tickets"!
"op grote voet leven" ('living on a big foot')
To put this into an American idiom, I would probably say, 'Living high on the hog'. It means to spend a lot of money on house, furniture, clothing, going out and receiving guests. Technically 'voet' (or 'foot') here refers to a way of conducting your life. We generally don't 'live on a big foot' (especially now that our income is uncertain), but we do splurge at Thanksgiving and Christmas and buy a turkey for our dinner. Turkeys here usually have to be special ordered and come fresh from France. They also cost around $4.50 a pound!
"voor iemand een lans breken" ('breaking a lance for someone')
This idiom comes out of the times when knights fought in tournaments. If one knight broke a lance for someone, it meant that he fought in their place in the tournament. It means to defend, stand up for or fight for someone. We want to be known as people who stand up for God but it is also good to know that God has and continues to fight for us! He 'fought' in our place when Jesus died on the cross in our place and He continues to be our Defender!
"De dans ontspringen" ('jumping out of the way of the dance')
This idiom acutally means escaping danger just in the nick of time. Chris' integration requirements are not something we would describe as dangerous, but he was definitely not able to 'jump out of the way' of that 'dance'!
"appeltje-eitje" (little apple-little egg) and "kat in 't bakkie" (kat in the box).
Both idioms refer to something being easy to accomplish. At Terri's graduation ceremony her internship coach described what Terri did to get her Dutch Sign Language degree as not being 'easy peasy'. Had he wanted to say that in real Dutch, he could have said 'appeltje-eitje was het niet' or 'Het is geen kat in 't bakkie'.
"iemand blij maken met een dode mus" (Making someone happy with a dead sparrow)
This implies that someone is talked into accepting something that they later realize is disadvantageous for them. When we were handed cards for our visas and realized that Chris' card was only for 1 year as well, we didn't just let it ride. We also didn't just accept Terri's 1 year extension "als zoete koek" . We didn't want 'a dead sparrow'. By challenging the situation, we ended up with a 3 year extension for Chris and having to accept Terri's 1 year one. That reminds us of another Dutch expression: " Nee heb je al. Ja kan je krijgen" (you've already got a 'no' but you can get a 'yes') i.e. it can't hurt to ask!
"een vreemde eend in de bijt" (a strange duck in the opening in the ice for ducks or fishing)
Refers to someone who is a stranger in the group. This is the expression Marco used to describe how he saw himself when he came to the BBQ...just before he told us that he felt sincerely accepted by us and in our home!
"een woordje over de grens spreken" (Speaking a little word over the border)
This is an old fashioned expression, but we heard it used in conversation with a friend who was headed to Sri Lanka for a few weeks of ministry. It means that someone can speak another language. We're headed off to the Czech Republic, but we don't speak even one little word 'over the border'!
"Het komt voor de bakker" (It comes before the baker)
The most well known Dutch dictionary says that this expressions stems from earlier times when people would knead the bread dough themselves and then take it to the baker to bake. When the dough was 'before the baker' the most important part of the task was already done. The expression means that something is in order or is taken care of. Pray with us that as we have done our best to complete the application forms for Chris' work permit and our residence visas that God will see that they 'come before the baker'!
Bread is a key element of the Dutch diet. Breakfast and lunch are what we call 'bread and spread' (slices of bread with stuff to put on top of it). We can't imagine a Dutch home without a good stock of bread! Thus, in this culture bread is an absolute necessity...hence the expression 'broodnodig' or something you can't do without. What we absolutely can't do without is God's guidance in everything that we do!
"ieder dubbeltje omdraaien" (turning every dime)
This expression means to be economical...careful with how you spend your money. In the current economic situation worldwide just about everyone, including us is 'turning every dime'. We are so grateful that God is the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills and that He has everything for all of us in His hands! Jehovah Jireh!
"de hand boven het hoofd van iemand houden"(holding the hand above someone's head) and "de hand op iets leggen" (putting the hand on something).
These are two different expressions, but both fit the concept of what we wanted to communicate. The first one means that you defend and protect someone (with words) an the second one means to claim something as your own..taking possession of it. The second one came from judicial terminology in the 17th century. If you wanted to claim something, you had to lay your hand on it. Isn't that what God has done with us? He lays His hand on us and claims us as His own. Then He offers us His support and protection. Gratefully, He does it not only with words, but also with deeds starting with coming to earth as a baby in manager in order to ultimately die in our place on the cross.
I just looked in my Dutch idiom book and dictionary to find an expression or idiom regarding thankfulness. Interestingly enough, under "Thankfulness" was the saying "Dankbaarheid is een bloemke, dat in weinig hoven bloeit" (Thankfulness is a flower that grows in few gardens) along with a reference to "see 'unthankful'! There I found the expression "Ondank is 's werelds loon" (Unthankfulness is the world's payment) used to express the idea that good deeds are often repaid with a lack of thankfulness or that you often get nothing in return for good deeds. Our prayer is that we first of all express our thankfulness to God often for what He has done and continues to do. We cannot begin to repay Him for all that He does, but we can be sincerely thankful and make it known. Secondly let's express our thankfulness to others for their help, ministry and impact in our lives! Let's not let our hearts be one of those gardens that have few 'flowers of thanksgiving' growing in them!
"Hier kan je je ei kwijt"
(You can loose (get rid of) your egg here) This expression means that you can say here what it is you want to say. It can be used for someone expressing their feelings over something that is going on, or to indicate a place where you can openly share what you need to share. Terri heard the expression again last week when she visited her internship location. There is an interpreter room where she was told "je kan hier je ei kwijt" - i.e. that it was a safe place to share what you are dealing with. Nice work environment....but with a little imagination you can just picture eggs all over the room!
"hij laat de wereld op zijn duim draaien"
(he lets the world spin on his thumb) This is used to say that someone has a lot of power or might. Makes us think of God who has the whole world in His hands as the old song goes! A similar expression, also having to do with the thumb is: "Hij houdt de duim in de hand" (he holds the thumb in the hand) - As long as you have the thumb of your enemy in your hand, you are in control. I.e. someone ensures that he has everything under control. If that isn't our God, I don't know who it is!
"ergens een mouw aan weten te passen"
(knowing how to fit a sleeve on somewhere) The expression comes from the old days when tailors made loose sleeves that fit onto shirts. It refers to figuring out a way to make something (a situation or need) work out. Although it is often used in the negative sense ("I don't know any solution for that") we have heard it used positively as well ("There has to be a way to work that out"). That is what we are seeking with Terri's next internship. We are confident that God knows how to "fit that sleeve" on!
"zoden aan de dijk zetten"
(putting sod on the dike) This is often used in a the negative "putting no sod on the dike" to indicate that something doesn't help at all. It the positive sense it gives the picture of actions taken to make a positive impact. We certainly want to make sure that there is plenty of sod on the real dikes in Holland...otherwise we've have floods happening all over the place! In the same way, we are working to put sod on the spiritual dikes in this country. The Dutch Sign Language Bible work group is an example of that. Pray with us that the efforts there will have a very positive impact on Deaf people in this country.
"iets aan de grote klok hangen"
(hanging something on the big clock/chimes) This is defined as "telling something to everyone" or making it well known. In a bell tower, when the bells are rung, the sound is heard far and wide. Let's be a part of sounding the gospel message far and wide until everyone has had a chance to hear it!
(sick searching) This word showed up in an article about the Dutch bulb industry. It refers to the process of removing sick or imperfect bulbs from the field. It made us think of people who are spiritually sick or weak. Gratefully God doesn't simply kill people like that off! He calls us to come alongside them and nurture them into spiritual health. In particular with the new on-line group, we are seeking to nurture people who are hurting.
"De bloemetjes buiten zetten "
(setting the little flowers out) This phrase is used to describe celebrating, having a party. In the last month we have had a lot to celebrate, from the celebration of Christ's birth, to the completion of Terri's really heavy school semester. Although it is technically too early here for the flowers to be coming up, we have seen daffodils showing up anyway. I guess God "zet de bloemetjes uit"!
"De mist in gaan"
(Going into the mist) For one reason or another this expression has come up a lot lately in a variety of settings. It technically means that something goes completely wrong, but we have heard it used in the sense of someone getting really confused or getting off on the wrong track as well. Things have not "gone into the mist" for us, but it comes to mind now, just because we have heard it used so much lately!
"Dat staat nog in de kinderschoenen"
(That is still "standing" in children's shoes) This expression is used to say that something is still in the beginning stages. In English we would say that it is still in its infancy.
"De molen is door de vang"
(The windmill is through the clamp that hold the axle in place) This expression is used to say that there is nothing more that can be done and that something is hopeless. The 'vang' is the clamp that holds the turning axle of the mill in place. When the mill is "door de vang" it is out of control and cannot be stopped. The miller has lost control and accidents can occur. Despite the worsening exchange rate, we do not believe that the "molen is door de vang"! God is ultimately the "miller" and He never looses control! He continues to be faithful to provide for our needs and will continue to do so!
"Daar is meer omgegaan dan de molens in het woud"
(There is more going on than there are mills in the woods) – More has happened than people think. It makes me think of the verse "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundatnly above all that we ask or think...." (Ephesians 3:20). We're convinced that God is busy behind the scenes doing far more than we can even imagine...certainly doing more than there are mills in the woods!
"Dat zal hem geen windeieren leggen"
(That won't lay him any shell-less eggs) This expression means that someone will get a lot of benefit from something....ie it won't result in useless outcomes. The time investment that is being made in people (the summer youth team and our own contacts with non-believers) will bear fruit in God's time! His Word will not come back to Him without accomplishing what He sent it out to do! No shell-less eggs with God!
"Een held op sokken"
(a hero in socks) Folko used this expression in his sermon a week ago and we had to look the exact meaning up! He was preaching on Gideon when he used it. It refers to someone who doesn’t dare to do anything…our dictionary also said that it is someone who has a lot to say but doesn’t do anything. Fits Gideon pretty well…at least in the beginning…hiding out in the winepress, constantly wanting to recheck what God told him to do, etc.
"Als de maan vol is schijnt ze overal"
(When the moon is full, it shines everywhere) This saying indicates that when people are happy, everyone can see it. We feel so excited about what God is in the process of doing that it can’t help but spill out of us.
"Alles gaat van een leien dakje"
(Everything is going like from a lead roof.) This expression is used to say that things are going smoothly. We have heard 2 explantations for this expression. One simply refers to how easily the rain streams off of lead roofs. The other talks about the royal children who lived years ago in Paleis Het Loo (Het Loo Palace) who used to play ball outside. The story goes that their balls would end up on the roof of the palace, but because of the smooth lead tiles, they could glide right off. Either way, it refers to things gliding off of a lead roof. That is how it has felt for Terri regarding her tests lately. Things have been going extremely smoothly. It feels like everything she touches at school turn to gold. That is a result of God working as a result of your prayers!
"De victorie begint in Alkmaar"
(The victory begins in Alkmaar.) This expression comes from Alkmaar’s history. Alkmaar was the first city to successfully hold the Spaniards at bay. While that is true as far as Dutch political history goes, the real victory began elsewhere! Victory comes from Christ who conquered sin and death for us. We prayed again today in the monthly prayer gathering for this city that the real victory will also begin in Alkmaar! May God reign in this city!
"Je wordt geleefd"
(You are being lived). This Dutch expression is used to describe someone who is being lived by life rather than living life. It is used to imply that someone is way too busy and that life is out of control. We want to suggest a revised positive version of the expression: “Je wordt door God geleefd” (you are being lived by God). During the time that we have been in the States we have seen God at work in many unexpected ways. We feel like this has been a time of God directing our lives and we have just needed to follow along where He leads. We would like our lives to always “be lived by God”!
"Voor een schip zonder haven is geen enkele wind de juiste"
(For a ship without a harbor there is no wind that is the right one.) This is meant to indicate that a home is the basis of a happy life. We are very aware as we travel back in the U.S. that the concept of “home” has different meanings for us. While we are currently back in our homeland and enjoy the contacts and the American things that we miss in Holland, our home in many ways now is Holland. That is where our life and work is now. However, our family and friends make this still home for us as well. However, for all of us who know Christ, no where on this planet will be completely our home. Home is ultimately in heaven with the Lord. Those around us who do not know the Lord are like ships without a harbor.
"Dat is een fluitje van een cent"
(That is a one cent flute) When Terri first got sick she was initially diagnosed with bronchitis. She had had bronchitis once before but it was nothing compared to what she was now experiencing. When writing an e-mail to her classmates to say that she wouldn’t be in class she said that her previous bronchitis was “a walk in the park” compared to this. She asked her classmates if they had a similar Dutch expression and this one was given to her. Since our idiom books are back in Holland we tried searching on the internet to find the history behind this expression, but didn’t have much success. Liesbeth (who gave us the idiom) said that she thinks it means that 70 years ago you could purchase a very cheap flute. One on-line idiom site said that it is easy to make noise with a cheap flute. Either way, the idea is that of something that is quite easy. Another comparable English expression would be “That is a piece of cake”.
"Daar kan ik geen chocola van maken"
(I can’t make any chocolate from that.) This expression is used to indicate that you can’t understand something or, in an English expression “It’s all Greek to me.” For many Dutch deaf people, that is pretty desciptive of their understanding of Christ and the Bible. Access to clear information is limited and what they get is at times not clear or accurate.
"Een koekje van eigen deeg krijgen"
(getting a cookie from your own dough) – Since the team that is coming will be spending time baking lots of cookies for the International Christmas service, we thought that this expression would be fitting this month. Actually, the expression is used in a more negative sense (so it doesn’t really fit our team’s efforts!). It refers to someone who has treated other people badly and then gets treated badly himself. In other words, “He got what was coming to him.” What might fit our team better is the expression..
"Dat is andere koek"
(That is a different cookie) – This expression implies that two topics in a conversation are quite different from one another. “That isn’t what I’m talking about…it is something quite different.” The American cookies baked for the international Christmas service are usually novelties for many people here…they are literally “a different cookie”!
"Wat de boer niet kent, eet hij niet"
(What the farmer doesn’t know, he doesn’t eat) – Many Dutch folks are not very daring when it comes to trying new things. Our church here has never had a church day out like the ladies from California planned for us, but we still had 80% of the church family in attendance…pretty incredible percentage. Everyone had a blast and several ladies here are considering how they can organize something similar themselves. When it came time to eat, however, many folks were less adventurous! Our ladies team kept most of the food pretty safe (food that the “farmer” knew), but did make a dish of chicken enchilladas for the more adventurous. Those who dared to try something new really enjoyed them!
"Goed gebekt zijn"
(Have a good beak/animal mouth) - Although the Dutch word "bek" refers to the mouth of an animal, not a human, this expression is used to describe someone that can speak well, not stumble over their mouth trying to get a response out. Terri is beginning the Dutch sign languge interpreter program and wants to be "goed gebekt" with both her mouth (in speaking Dutch) but also her hands (Dutch sign langugage).
"Als de maan vol is, shcijnt ze overall"
(When the moon is full, it shines everywhere) – This expression is used to say that when someone is happy, everyone can see it. How much does your life radiate Christ’s life in you? Is your “moon” so full that it is shining everywhere? We know that we want ours to be and I believe you do too!
"Beter een dag leven als een tijger dan honderd als een schaap"
(Better to live one day as a tiger than 100 as a sheep) – According to our dictionary, this means that the quality of life is what is most important. Our teammate says that he thinks the word “tiger” pretty well defines a lot of Dutch people. It is actually due to the difficulty of ministering in this culture that many pastors are burning out and leaving the ministry. We are aware of one man who returned to Holland after ministering overseas for a number of years. He is now being confronted with the negativity and other challenges that are prevalent in this culture and is wondering if he can continue to minister here. We also wonder how Dutch people view the Bible’s definition of us all as sheep who are in need of a shepherd in light of this saying!
"Vroeg uit de veren"
(early out of the feathers) – We learned this one while touring Castle Muiderslot. In the Middle Ages mattresses were often filled with straw. If you slept directly on the mattress the straw could be quite prickly and uncomfortable. To help eliminate that problem people filled a cloth sack with feathers and laid in on top of the straw mattress like a sort of mattress pad. When you got up early in the morning you could say that you were “early out of the feathers”. Since we have to leave home tomorrow morning at 4:30 a.m. to catch our flight we will be “vroeg uit de veren”
"Je kan het met je klompen wel aanvoelen"
(You can feel that with your wooden shoes on) – i.e. that is something that is not difficult to see/pick up on. Even with wooden shoes on your feet you can still feel what you are walking over. With all that God is doing here we could sense it even through wooden shoes!
"Als Pasen op een vrijdag valt"
(If Easter came on a Friday) or “Als Pasen en Pinkstern op een dag vallen.” (If Easter and Pentecost fall on the same day) – These Dutch expressions are a way of saying “It will never happen” You might compare it to the English expression “That will happen when hell freezes over”
"Wat heb ik nou aan mijn fiets hangen?"
(What have I got hanging on my bike now?) – This is a way of saying “What’s going on now?” or “What do I have to deal with now?” Biking is the most common means of transportation for people in Holland. Many people go their entire life without owning a car. We find it interesting to see what types of things people carry on their bikes. Besides baskets or saddlebags full of groceries or other shopping items, we’ve seen people carrying ladders, flowers, pizzas, and almost anything else you can imagine!
"Ambachtelijke molens malen langzaam"
(Official/government mills grind slowly) - Nothing happens fast via government channels. We pray that the mills won’t grind too slowly as we seek to get information about our work permit and visa extensions!
"nu komt de aap uit de mouw"
(Now the monkey is coming out of the sleeve) – This phrase is used when someone has told you one thing and another person says, “That’s not the way it is. Let me tell you how it really is.” It is a way of saying “Now the real truth comes out.”
"de kat uit de boom kijken"
(Watching the cat out of the tree) – When a dog chases a cat that runs up a tree, he will often sit at the base of the tree and wait for the cat to come down. In the same way, Dutch people will often wait to see if something is worthwhile, or how thing are really going to go, before joining in. New ideas or suggestions don’t go over very quickly here! In the same way, people are slow to respond to the gospel and need to be in a relationship where they can both see and hear it many times over.
"Hij heeft te veel noten op zijn zang"
(He has too many notes in his song) – This communicates the idea that there are too many things being required for something. It makes us think of the people proposing to the Dutch government that a 2 year limit for a missionary visa makes any kind of sense. They said that they realized that one year was not long enough for someone to learn the language, culture and have an opportunity to accomplish anything. What do they think can realistically happen in 2 years?! Many mission boards set the first two years of a missionaries term aside for language learning alone! In our opinion, those making and considering this proposal have too many notes in their song!
"iets in kleuren en geuren vertellen"
(Telling something in colors and smells) – The beautiful colors of the flowers and their sweet aromas are remarkable here in Holland. Information can be shared in the same way...including all the wonderful, unique things that are involved. It is a privilege for us to let you know of the marvelous ways that God is at work here!
"in 't huwelijksbootje stappen"
(stepping into the wedding boat) – getting married. We attended our first Dutch wedding in August. In Holland, marriages are only official when they are performed at the city hall by a government official. Only after that is done can the couple have a church ceremony. The bride and groom sit, rather than stand. Unlike the American weddings we were used to, people don’t dress up much here for the ceremony. The bride and groom did, as did some of the witnesses. However, most of those in attendance wore very casual attire. Since our old city hall is in the middle of one of our walking/shopping districts, when a wedding takes place, everyone on the street stops to watch. Daniel and Karen asked Chris to take some video footage for them and he is now in the process of making them a nice DVD video to remember their day by. Terri was asked to man the gift table at the reception. People brought their gifts and handed them directly to the bride and groom, who, after thanking people, handed them to Terri. Most gifts came without the giver’s names noted anywhere, so Terri had to make sure that they all got labeled appropriately.
"Zoals het klokje thuis tikt, tikt het nergens"
(The clock doesn't chime anywhere else quite like it does at home) – i.e. "There's no place like home!" This quote implies that you will never again find the same sense of "home" in any house other than the one you grew up in. Many people who have moved overseas do sense the loss of "home". Gratefully, God has given us the ability to have 2 "homes": One in Holland and one in the U.S.
"Dat is zo helder als koffiedik"
(That’s as clear as coffee grounds) – i.e. very unclear! Coffee is a pretty big part of Dutch society. We firmly believe that nothing here can happen without coffee! Interestingly, instead of talking about reading tea leaves, they use the expression “koffiedik kijken”, or looking at the coffee grounds. Actually they use this expression more in terms of making guesses or predictions about something you really know nothing about.
"Hij heeft het zo druk als de kippen voor Pasen"
(He is as busy as the chickens before Easter) – Just consider how many eggs get boiled and colored at Easter and you’ll know just what this expression is all about! It is a pretty good expression of how we feel right about now!
"iets onder de knie hebben"
(having something under your knee) – This expression is used to indicate that you have mastered something. Our idiom book describes it as knowing something through and through, being in control of something or having the power over something.
"natte vinger werk"
(wet finger work) – Marcel, the 25 year old speaker at last Sunday’s youth service, used this expression in his message and it was the first time we had heard it. It comes from the idea of wetting your finger and holding it up to see which way the wind is blowing. Our dictionary explains the expression as doing something quickly with having studied the issue first...i.e. guess work!
"Hoge bomen vangen veel wind"
(Tall trees catch a lot of wind.) – In Dutch culture standing out from the crowd is not valued like it can be in America. People who stand out from the rest (i.e. leaders who dare to “stand tall”) get a lot of flack. We see that both within and without the church here.
"Als één schaapje over de dam is, volgen er meer."
(When one sheep goes over the dam, more follow.) – The dam in the sloot (ditches filled with water separating pastures) binds one pasture to another. Once a shepherd could get one sheep to go over the dam to the new pasture, the rest would follow. Whenever one person sets the example, particularly in difficult situations, then others will follow. This sounds like a pretty good description of leadership and discipleship to me! It makes me think of Paul’s charge to the Philippians in Phil. 3:17 “Brethren, join in following my example and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.”
"Roeie met de riemen die je hebt."
(Row with the oars that you have) – Make the best of what you have. Don’t fret over all the possibilities that don’t really exist. Take what you’ve got to work with and do the best with it that you can.
"Hoe komt een ezel aan twee lange oren?"
(How does a donkey get two long ears?) – This is the answer given to questions about how something can be when someone either can’t or doesn’t want to answer. Donkeys tend to get a bad rap here. They always seem to be the “fall guy” used to represent someone or something stupid. We thought in light of the donkey in the Christmas story, that we’d share one of the many expressions relating to a donkey.
"Joost mag het weten."
(Joost must know it.) - This expression is used to indicate that you have no idea about something and imply that “Joost” must know it. I asked several friends where this expression came from and who Joost was. Most people told me they didn’t know. One gal said that Joost refers to a famous writer who reportedly “knows everything”. I just looked in our Dutch proverbs/expressions book to discover that Joost is apparently one of the names for the devil! The Dutch dictionary indicates something different. According to it, Joost came from a Japanese word that through Portuguese somehow became “Deos” or “God”. Thus, they say that the expression really means, “Only God knows!” I’m sure glad that we serve a God who really does know everything!
(or "cucumber time") - This refers to the quiet summer period when little happens. Traditionally, growers were busy during the summer months, but other businesses had nothing to do. More and more this term is used to refer to the lack of news or activity.
"Dat zuigt hij uit zijn duim"
(He sucks that out of his thumb.) This is similar to our expression of pulling something out of the air. It refers to something that someone just made up. It refers to the idea of a small child who sucks on his thumb when he can't get a bottle. It doesn't have any value to it.
"Hij staat vast in zijn schoenen."
("He stands firmly in his shoes.") This expression describes someone who knows his mind and is certain of what he thinks. i.e. someone who stands his ground.
"koek en ei"
(cookie and egg) – this expression gets used in the same way that we would use the expression “It’s just a bed of roses.” No one I have asked yet has been able to tell me why cookies and eggs imply things going easy, or even what the two have to do with each other!
"Wie voor een dubbeltje geboren is, wordt nooit een kwartje."
(Whoever is born a dime will never be a quarter). Born poor, always poor. A person doesn't rise beyond who they are.
"Iets door de vingers zien"
(Seeing something through the fingers). This is the idea of holding your fingers in front of your face, but looking past the fingers rather than at them. The concept is that you shouldn't get distracted with things going on around you. You should keep your focus on where it belongs and plug ahead.
"Hij is met zijn neus in de boter gevallen"
(He has fallen with his nose in the butter) This expression implies that someone has come at an opportune moment. It can also be used to describe a man who marries a rich wife!
"Daar heeft hij geen kaas van gegeten."
(He hasn’t eaten any cheese from there) – This phrase indicates that someone knows nothing or little about a subject.
"Praten over koetjes en kalfjes"
literally translated "Talking about little cows and little calves." This is the expression you use to say that you are chatting about nothing of importance or nothing in particular. Can you guess that there are a lot of cows in this country?