Archive for November, 2009

Cute Kitten

I bet everyone’s seen this by now, but who cares. I sure don’t.

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Life as an Expat

My experience here in Antwerp has been very positive, but there were (and perhaps still are) some amusing language barriers here and there. I’ll mention a few.

I call a fuse a stop. Here it is called a zekering, which I almost exclusively associate with playing around with designing electronic circuitry yourself. So while I completely understand the Flemish usage from that perspective, the first time it came up I had no idea how to communicate what I was talking about. I had to use an explanation about washing machines being broken and leaking electricity before the Flemish person was able to tell me they call that a zekering.

I say, Hoe duur is dat? (How expensive is that?) to inquire about the price of something. One Flemish store owner told me I should stop using that because they consider the implication that something has to be expensive rather offensive. In English it sounds similar to me, but in Dutch as it is spoken in the Netherlands it doesn’t imply anything about something being expensive. Instead they exclusively say Hoeveel kost dat? or Hoeveel is dat? (How much does that cost? or How much is that?). Or at least, so that store owner says.

To me, morgen (morning) is roughly from 6 AM to 12 PM (in English morning has different implications), and middag (afternoon) is roughly from 12 PM to 6 PM. When someone was making an appointment for the voormiddag (fore-afternoon) I assumed they meant something like 12 PM – 3 PM. Instead they meant something like 9 AM -12 PM. Middag (midday) equals noon, i.e. 12 PM, and namiddag means afternoon, exactly the same as in English. It makes a lot of sense, but it’s quite different. In my Dutch Dutch the word namiddag does exist, and means something starting around 3 or 4 PM (or possibly around 2 PM in winter), until the end of the afternoon (i.e. 6 PMish, maybe more like 5 PM in winter, although like I said, our definitions are a little more rigid than in other languages). By logical extrapolation voormiddag would mean the period prior to the namiddag, which would be from 12 PM to 3 PM. According to the dictionary it’s even used like that somewhere frequently enough to be mentioned, though where I’m from we’d talk about early in the afternoon. In conclusion, Dutch and Flemish have distinctly different connotations for the words voormiddag, middag, and namiddag. When I think about the actual meaning of the words (fore midday, midday, and after midday), the Flemish meaning makes more sense, but in its own context the Dutch meaning is equally sensible. There’s a reason the concept is called false friends (like German See and Dutch zee).

Speaking of false friends, there is one thing that never confused me, but that does sound funny to me. Over here tas means cup, akin to German Tasse, but to me it sounds like someone wants to drink a bag of coffee (or some such) if the term is used.

Lastly, I still think it’s somewhat amusing each and every time I see things on sale on €x (aan €x) instead of for €x (voor €x).

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Extend Opera

ExtendOpera.org was launched a few days ago. It’s a user initiative, aimed at bringing those aspects of Opera customization that Opera software has somewhat abandoned together.

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Of a Small Cut by a Knife Not Made for Stabbing

Yesterday, I was cutting slices of salami while eating lunch. In a move that wasn’t quite as smart as it seemed at the time, I lifted the salami and started cutting it in mid-air. Because the cutting wasn’t proceeding as swiftly as planned, I increased pressure on the sausage from both sides and somehow my thumb must have ended up in the cutting trajectory. A small drop of blood rears its head out of the cut, and that’s the end of it. That night, while listening to one of Wil Wheaton’s amusing podcasts, I felt my thumb throbbing a little and I decide to show it to her.

Me
Hon, I cut myself with a bread knife—um, I mean a butter knife.
My wife
Leave it to you to cut yourself with a butter knife.
Me
What are you talking about, they have sharp teeth and everything!
My wife
It’s got a rounded corner and is not actually sharp. Just because they are slightly serrated doesn’t mean that they’re meant for cutting, or that anybody but you could manage to cut themselves with it.
Me
But–but–but, you could cut steaks with it too!
My wife
That’s what steak knives are for. Sharp knives have sharp points. Why do you think that knives made for stabbing people aren’t serrated?
Me
So you’re saying that all of our kitchen knives are for stabbing people?
My wife
*softly slaps my chest* You’re such a dork!

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