Giving someone ‘lovable maggots’ (madeliefjes) is completely acceptable in the Netherlands – and demonstrates why Dutch shouldn’t be translated into English.
About six months ago, I wrote a popular post on 30 amusing Dutch words. Laura Frame, my partner in crime and illustrator for that post, has come up with some more cute illustrations of amusing Dutch words. It would be a shame not to share more.
This post shows you why it’s a bad idea to directly translate Dutch words into English.
Eekhoorntjesbrood – literally translates into ‘little squirrel’s bread’ – actually means porcini mushrooms. Leuk, hè?
It means leopard, but is literally translated as ‘lazy horse’.
This is the word for a crow bar, but the literal translation is ‘cow foot’.
You got it – ‘parrot diver’. But it actually means puffin.
Continuing the animal theme, tuinslang translates into have a ‘garden snake’ – which is actually just a garden hose.
But for real emergencies, you’ll need a brandslang – or a ‘fire snake’! It’s really just a fire hose.
Gordeldier means armadillo, but the literal translation is ‘belt animal’.
The direct Dutch translation for polar bear is ‘ice bear’. IJs can also mean ice-cream – even better!
Paardenbloem crosses animal and flower genres to give us the ‘horse flower’ – but it is really the word for dandelion.
Literally meaning ‘lovable maggot’, madelief is the word for a daisy.
A foxglove (vingerhoedskruid) is literally translated as ‘finger hat herb’ – and also an ideal candidate for a funny English word illustration.
‘Flower reading’ (bloemlezing) is the way you say ‘anthology’ in Dutch.
Literally meaning ‘peanut cheese’, pindakaas is the word for peanut butter.
Where did I put my toilet glasses (toiletbril)? ‘Toiletbril’ means toilet seat.
‘Dust sucker’! Thankfully it is the word for vacuum cleaner.
Stembanden, meaning vocal chords, literally translates into ‘voice tyres’.
Definitely one of my personal favourites! Schoonmoeder (mother-in-law) literally translates as ‘clean mother’. Schoon can also mean beautiful.
Are you a ‘party nose’? You might be better known as a party animal (feestneus).
A misfit (buitenbeentje) is literally translated from Dutch to English as a ‘ little outside leg’.
“Quick, call the ‘fire weather’!” Brandweer is the word for fire brigade; in this instance, weer comes from weren which means to avert. So ‘Brandweer’ means fire defence or fire aversion.
What have been your biggest fails while learning Dutch? Ondernemer was a personal highlight of mine – I thought it meant undertaker, but it’s actually entrepreneur! Plus, “Ik heb mijn benen uit.” Totally normal to say that in English, but in Dutch it would insinuate that I have prosthetic limbs. Oops!