learning to speak Dutch / What is the point? / Kwik, Kwek en Kwak / Donald Evans / Nadorp & Mangiare / Adina Weinand's dingbats
Please click on image.
After he settled in the Netherlands, the artist (trained at Cornell as an architect) Donald Evans taught himself Dutch vocabulary by making stamps -- there are lots more -- of Dutch words.
When I'm in the Netherlands, Dutch people refuse to speak Dutch to me. "What is the point?" they ask. Everybody in Randstad -- the region with the big cities, literally "Edge City" -- speaks English, and they have centuries of very successful experience of conducting Commerce & Romance with people who don't speak Dutch / Nederlands. (English, in Dutch, is Engels.)
itty-bitty PizzaQ, 1 slice plain:
In the movies, who lives with his mom and dad in Edge City?
Dutch is the native language of 22,000,000 people. English is the first language of between 309,000,000 and 400,000,000 people, and including those fluent in English as a second language, 1,800,000,000 speak and understand English.
So what is the point? How will it benefit or profit Dutch speakers if some tourist asshat from Massachusetts acquires a few more words of Dutch? These sidewalk and hotel reception conversations are much more valuable to Dutch speakers when conducted in English/Engels, and I can polish their English nuance and pronunciation.
In a conversation about Spinoza, I mentioned his Day Job as a lens-grinder, and a Dutch person was fascinated with this term. It's what (English-speaking) lens polishers have always called themselves, but "lens polisher" is what written scholarly accounts of Spinoza would call it.
I asked a Dutch storekeeper if she took plastic, and she looked confused and said no. A moment later, after a little huddle with another Dutch woman, she said Yes, they were happy to accept credit cards; she'd never heard them called "plastic," and was grateful for the slang lesson.
My greatest achievement in Dutch was to master the pronunciation of Alstublieft, the Dutch word for "Please." (Thank You = danke wel, dunkee vel.)
Dutch people are also amazed that I know who Kwik, Kwak en Kwek are. (I bought a backpack patch of them for my backpack in an Amsterdam tailor shop, and the lady taught me their local names.)
It is a Big Mistake to try to crank out your high school German and try to substitute it for Dutch words to a Dutch person. If you must find a common communications language, Engels will be received far more graciously and appreciatively. An American woman of my acquaintance got into a little contretemps with a Dutch policeman, and called him by the German word "Polizei." (The Dutch word -- so similar, and a gazillion light-years different -- is Politie.) Things rapidly went south from there. The Dutch people have had recent experiences with German police officers.
Nadorp is one of Evans' imaginary postage-issuing nations, a fantasy reflecting his love of the Netherlands. Another Dutch fantasy nation is the Principality of Lichaam en Geest -- Body and Soul, something he found himself thinking about a lot when he had to have a tricky surgery. The postage stamps of Lichaam en Geest are illustrated with the marine mammals of the waters surrounding the Netherlands.
The other block of stamps is from the Italian-flavored country of Lo Stato di Mangiare -- literally, The State of Eating. Evans loved dirigibles and zeppelins -- rigid airships; blimps have no internal structural skeleton -- and in his re-creation of Planet Earth, Lo Stato di Mangiare was the world's leader and pioneer in great passenger lighter-than-aircraft.
This is the second time I have crept around the dark and unguarded chambers of the Internet, and filched the exquisite dingbats created by Adina Weinand, a student at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design. On her blog she writes:
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For Graphic Design class. The assignment was to create compositions exploring a few design principles:
1. Balance 2. Texture or Pattern 3. Rhythm 4. Tension
We had to pick a conceptual word to create a visual theme/concept in all the compositions-I chose "fantastical", in order to interrelate form, concept, and composition.
* * *
This is why, when I am appointed Emperor of the Universe, I will issue a Decree or Ukase forbidding anyone from using Words to write about Music or Visual Art, on Pain of Death. Mediocre artists and musicians will be immediately put to Death. Talented artists and musicians will be put to Death two or three times, until they Learn to stop pissing off Emperor Robert I.
Fortunately for Adina Weinand, my appointment as E of the U has been inexplicably delayed. And this is possibly a Good Thing. I first learned about Donald Evans and his marvelous postage stamps and postcards and envelopes in a review of the dreamy coffee-table book "The World of Donald Evans." The review was entirely words, paragraph after paragraph of black text, and contained not a single illustration of Evans' art.
But I ran out and bought the book, and boy am I happy about that.