Tag-arkiv: Dutch

Wikipedia thoughts

I looked up the word Lucifer on Wikipedia and read a Danish page that explained me that it is the name of a roman god and that it later was used in, for example, the Bibel to describe the planet Venus. In the late middle-ages it became a synonym for the devil.
The link to the Dutch version of that page leads to “Lucifer (Satan)” with no mention of the roman predecessor or a planet. In the overview-page of all articles in Dutch containing Lucifer there were many options (popband, novel, satan etc.) but non about the roman god. There was a one sentence mention (not a page) about Lucifer being “an old Latin name for the planet Venus”.

It irritates me that a general article in Danish about the name Lucifer is linked to a Dutch article about the devil, without mentioning any roman predecessors. This is in my opinion another small sign about the Dutch society still being so entangled in christianty that it misforms history. There are many prechristian traditions, names and stories that were transformed at one point in history to fit into christianity, and I think that it is our duty to at least inform each other that there actually was life before that.

The English Wikipedia page refers briefly to the name being a latin word given to the planet Venus and at the bottom of the page it links to an article about the ancient Greek god Eosphoros. They also mention the use of the name Lucifer or the interpretation of it in other beliefs than Christianity.

I do not know how to make a remark about this on the Dutch Wikipedia pages – I might have to read the Wikipedia introduction first.

How to be prudent in Dutch.

Hope Gate, Québec ca. 1871, by Louis-Prudent Vallée

There are many languages, many words. All spoken languages are prefect because they have been used for centuries.
But sometimes there is a word in a language that seems to be unknown in other languages.
I looked up the word prudent, as I didn’t know exactly how to define it.

According to thefreedictionary.com it is:


1. Wise in handling practical matters; exercising good judgment (sic) or common sense.
2. Careful in regard to one’s own interests; provident.
3. Careful about one’s conduct; circumspect.

There is a possibility at the bottom of the page to translate the word into another language. This can be helpful for those that speak a different native language.
But prudent is translated into Dutch as voorzichtig. That is definitely not right. Voorzichtig means careful, and this not in the sense mentioned in point 1, 2 or 3 above.

There is apparently no good translation of prudent. That’s probably why I didn’t really know it. It makes one wonder why the Dutch didn’t need a word covering this quality.


P.S. I came to think of the word verstandig as a somewhat better translation. And indeed after a quick search I found that http://www.freedict.com/onldict/onldict.php chooses verstandig as the best option.

But http://online.ectaco.co.uk gives many options: voorzichtig, omzichtig, beleidvol, oordeelkundig, verstandig.


Map of the main attack by the Swedish army on Copenhagen on the 11th of February 1659. Source: Wikipedia

When listening to the danish language program Sproghjørnet I heard a discussion about the word “Prøvesten”. It was said that besides being a stone to test whether a material was what it seemed to be, for example gold,  it had also been the name of a ship. This ship, together with other ships, was after ending its duties, sunk to form the basis of a little Island called Prøvesten on which was build a fortress to defend Copenhagen.


I went looking for this little island on the internet and saw that it is now part of Copenhagen harbour, well connected to the mainland. I also found this map showing the little island of Prøvesten but also the rather immense defense works of Copenhagen. I had hardly realized that those remains of the defense system still exist and that Copenhagen had once been fortress like that. I came to think of this post of Cristhoper’s picture blog with the text explaining about an amazing long siege of Copenhagen.


It struck me that there is a lot of focus in Denmark on the prehistoric times of the Vikings and before. An enormously rich and unique period of Danish history, but there have been other times, much closer to ours, that have been of major importance to the present state of this part of the world.


I know a tiny little bit about Swedish supremacy and Danish invasions and interests in the south of Sweden and the Danish interests in the north of Germany. There must have been many wars and events, but it is not a very common thing to discuss this period in the media or elsewhere.


Was Copenhagen indeed such a strong fort as the remains of its walls suggest?


Being a Dutchman I remember a story from Danish history books about the Dutch “helping” to free Copenhagen from a siege by the Swedes, and I wondered if it was a part of the same story.


It is quite amazing to notice that finding information about this period is not that simple. The internet is great, fantastic, but sometimes it is clear that it is also still young and under development.


Luckily there is Wikipedia telling about the long siege of the apparently well defended and walled city of Copenhagen in 1658 to 1660.  And indeed it is confirmed here that the intervention of the Dutch fleet was a major help that probably saved the town. Wikipedia states (without naming a source) that Dutch marines even helped on land, o.a. in this fragment:


“The moats and the beaches had been kept free of ice, and now the ice free zones were widened to 44 feet with the help from 600 Dutch marines. The ice was thick, and the work was done in heavy snowfall from 4 o’clock in the afternoon till evening on the 10 February.”


After reading a little bit more about this Swedish attack on Denmark I now understand that Denmark was on the verge of being wiped out completely. A major event as big as the defeat against Germany in 1864. The latter being more often mentioned and commemorated, probably also because it is not that long ago (as a result of this war parts of south Denmark became danish again as late as in 1920). But where as the teaching of history and the culture and identity of the Dutch is mainly based upon the 17th century, it is in Denmark an eventful period that seems to be outside the main interest or perhaps overshadowed by other periods.


I noticed a pattern in a whirl of thoughts and finds the last days. I had just finished a story from an old book that I took from the shelves a couple of days ago. The book from 1886 is the 7th edition of the Prose of E.J. Potgieter (1808 -1875). I read the story ” ‘t Is maar een penelikker” in which he writes down his vision upon the people working in the offices and desks, copying letters, bookkeeping and doing all those tasks connected to the extensive paperwork that accompanies trade. His words paint a black and rather hopeless world of dependency, low wages and no social security. A gray mass of people who just try to survive. He ends with saying that it is good that the government now (1840) thinks about pensions for their employees but also that the Dutch should take an example of how things were in the golden age of the Dutch, the 17th century. There people dared to explore, they went out and discovered the world, (“without needing so much paperwork as nowadays”). So he concludes by saying that we should sent our young and ambitious people abroad to let them learn, exploit, start companies and bring honor and glory to themselves and their country.

I searched for his name on the internet and read a biography of E.J. Potgieter, an important name in Dutch literature because he was one of the founders and major contributor of “De Gids”, the leading, if not only, Dutch magazine about literature for decennia. The article was negative about his efforts to get some 17th century spirit into the people he wrote for, it said it never worked and it couldn’t work because he wrote too complicated, too intellectual, even using words that did not fit into the time he lived, or in a form that was too hard to appreciate. It was said that he created his own world and that in the end no one got permission to enter it, nothing was good enough.
The story was written in 1840, the same year where (thanks google) a man named Andries Henrik Potgieter became the leader of a colony in South Africa that he apparently named “Potchefstroom” after himself. I know virtually nothing about South-African history, but I do know it wasn’t a peaceful an uncomplicated one, and being a “voortrekker-leader” like Andries Henrik was probably not something to be favored either. So while one influential Potgieter wrote about creating opportunities abroad another Potgieter was doing so in practice, for whatever reason and with whatever consequences.
The writer Potgieter liked an intellectual use of language, even referring to 17th century Dutch, the South-African Potgieter spoke Afrikaans, a language that is spoken today by app. 6,5 mill. people in the south of the African continent and that is based upon Dutch dialects with influences that reach back to the 17th century.
So the story of one Potgieter seems to compliment the story of the other.

The search revealed a lot of Potgieters in South-Afrika and following one link I found and listened to videos of the South-African Band Glaskas. Great, and for me as a Dutchman it is very special to hear Afrikaans. I can thank the writer E.J. Potgieter for it, because his short story made me curious enough to search for his name.

This is my favourite:

Glaskas: Stormstille