(In)offensive Dutch

By Dmitry Kann 2 min read
This post  in Russian

It’s a known fact some common words in one language may sound pretty rude or even offensive in another. Furthermore, some words in the same language can be confusing.

Take Dutch and English.

If, for example, one typed “Buurvrouw, wat een mooie koolmezen, maar wat doet mijn haan op uw ezel?” into Google Translate, he’d be presented the following translation:

Great tits

Google Translate gets it right.
Google Translate gets it right.

And Google isn’t wrong here because great tit and cock (rooster) are birds, and ass is simply a donkey.

Die, mama, die

Another example someone might find shocking at first glance:

Mama, die, die, die…
Mama, die, die, die…

Only a Dutch (or a German) will understand the kid is actually saying “Mom, this one, this one, this one please.”

Which reminds me of this tweet, too.


Let’s move on to the spoken language. When it comes to Dutch, there are numerous pitfalls on a foreigner’s way.

One of the most frequently used is hoor, an interjection that is usually not translated into English. Its function is softening the tone of the sentence. The Dutch often say something like “Ja hoor!” and “Nee hoor!”, meaning just “yes, sure” and “nope.”

The only problem is that this word sounds very close to “whore”. Which takes some getting used to.

Kok, dik, and prik

All these words are pretty innocent, meaning:

  • kok is a cook,
  • dik means “thick” or “fat”,
  • prik is injection or fizz.

A legend has it that the former Dutch prime minister Wim Kok had to explain his surname quite often when visiting foreign countries.

Kant and ledikant

These sound even worse, whereas:

  • kant means “side”,
  • ledikant is merely a bedframe.

There’s also a hardcore version: kies mijn kant (“choose my side”).

Shag and fok

Shag in the Netherlands is usually loose rolling tobacco. So don’t get too excited when someone offers you shag.

Fok and fokken (breed) are another example of the provocative Dutch language.

There’s also a common Frisian name Fokje. So I imagine the following dialogue:

“What is your name, miss?”


Shaken, not stirred

The Dutch use lots of foreign words in their speech, with English being the most common source. This can make things even more complicated.

For instance, someone might ask you about today’s exchange rate:

Wat is de rate van vandaag?

The problem here is that “rate” sounds as reet in this context, meaning “arse”.

My humble advice would therefore be to avoid mixing languages, if possible. ■

Subscribe to blog updates: