Thursday, January 14, 2016

Reflections from Merseyside


I doubt I've ever praised an airport before but I was in a good mood, after an easy, quick and cheap bus ride from the centre of Haarlem to Schipol, and it occurred to me this airport must be a model for the rest of the world. Everything that can be automated – e. g. the passport check – is automated and even the balls-aching security check was quick, efficient and almost friendly. The icing on the top . . . When I went back to the bar to get the scarf I'd left there, they gave it me with a friendly comment. As I've said, I like the Dutch.

Of course, flying to Liverpool on EasyJet, I had to walk about 2 miles to the gate. But even this seemed pleasant, given that – unlike, say, Madrid - you don't have to go up and down and round and round. And everything is clearly signed, in English. But, as I say, the walk was so long that, when I passed the pilot, I asked him if we were there yet.

Dutch pronunciation 1: Quite a few languages have the kh ('kaytch') sound – Persian, Arabic, Spanish and Scottish (loch) being the ones that spring to my mind. But I wonder how many have the Dutch combination of S and Kh that makes them sound as if they're frequently hawking. It's a common feature of Dutch conversation. In fact, the sign for the airport suggested the bus was only going to places beginning with Sch, with Schipol being the last, of course. Needless to say, Dutch - as well as the Sch sounddoes also have the Kh/Ch sound, sometimes in the form of G. So, I asked, are there words which combine both sounds? And you already know the answer. Try Schavenhagen, for example. Doubtless my old and new Dutch friends can some up with several more.

Dutch pronunciation 2: I understand there've been several attempts to reform spelling over the centuries. One suggestion I have – from an English perspective, of course – is that AA should be the long A sound and not the short A sound. And that A should be short, not long. Similarly with the double O. But I leave it to the excellent folk of the Netherlands (not just Holland!) to take this further.

If there's anyone in the Netherlands who doesn't speak excellent – even idiomatic – English, I didn't bump into them. And the younger ones seem to be able to avoid the famous Dutch accent. English, in fact, appears to be an unofficial co-official language and people even move backwards and forwards between the two, as some folk in Galicia do with Spanish and Galego. All very impressive. It must be the easiest country in the world for English speakers to visit. As well as one of the most pleasant and well-organised.

Amsterdam is so culturally diverse, it's like a smaller, cleaner, more efficient London. Where the residents speak better English. One day was far from enough to see all it offers and I will go back for at least a week.

Dutch weather: Worse, I suspect, than the dreadful British winter weather. Despite this, most people insist on travelling around on bikes, some without gloves or any head protection whatsoever. This does wonders for their complexion, of course. So, a great country to live in if you can't stand heat and the sun. Especially if you own a boat and a bike.

Finally . . . I can't find it but I hear, there's an ad for an app which helps you learn Latin. It says this app will be useful to you if you're learning the language at school. Or should you want to take a trip to Latin. Perhaps reader Perry could chase it down and share it with us.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

And here I had made the firm intention NOT to write a comment today… But if you talk such utter confusion, how can I help it?? Tis stronger than I….

Lemme see.

Dutch does indeed have the /kh/ sound, as in Scottish 'Loch'. And it does combine this with a previous S. This results in 'Sch' (in Dutch orthography) which takes the niche of 'Sk' or 'Sc' in English (English School becomes Skhohl, when pronounced in Dutch, even though it is written identically; Scandal become Skhandahl, written Schandaal) or the Esc of Spanish (Escuela;Escandalo). And so on. It also sometimes takes the place of English Sh, as in Schip (pronounce: Skhip), which means Ship. Where, for that matter 'Schip-hol' comes from. And that hallowed name ought to have an H after the P, which does NOT, however, turn the name into Skhifol (we are not Greek, are we now?).

It even combined into a splendid S-ch-r, as in Schrijven, to Write, or Schram, scratch.

There is, however, no difference in pronunciation between Dutch 'G' and Dutch 'Ch'. Both are pronounced 'kh'. They are merely used to spell different words, a matter of (historical) convention. As such, no word in Dutch is written with initial Sg. It is always turned into initial Sch.

Now the worst possible example you might have come up with is the one you came up with, i.e. the name of the city where King and Government reside, as it has absolutely nothing to do with this question, nor any bearing upon the matter. That name, often shortened to Den Haag ('The Hedge'), runs in its full splendor: 's-Gravenhage, i.e. The Hedge of the Count, in which the initial 's stands for the very archaic 'des', the now disused genitive case of the article 'de', 'the'. And, incidentally, there is an 'r' right after the G, oh most accurate of linguistic observers!

There have been at least 5 'improvements' of official Dutch orthography over the last 200 years. The result is that it is near impossible for a native Dutch speaker to read even a text from 1800; while it has done nothing to improve the logic of the spelling, or bring it all that much closer to the way it is pronounced by 90 % of inhabitants. But they're working on that. A 6th 'improvement' is cheerfully being worked on, which will wreck even more havoc on historical understanding. These academics ought to whipped in the street. But where is the Dogslayer when you need him…?

As for tourist destinations: I would suggest that 'the easiest country for an English speaker to visit' would be England. Except, of course, the Liverpool area where that language hasn't been heard since the slavers sailed off.

Lastly, ye eagle-eyed observer of smartphone screens: the Latin-learning App probably said Latium, which is where Latin came from. I've been there. Their Latin is worse than the babble people speak in Liverpool.


Colin Davies said...

There is, however, no difference in pronunciation between Dutch 'G' and Dutch 'Ch'.

I didn't say there was. I was pointing out that there is an sch sound AND a kh/ch sound and they sometimes appear in the same word, making speakers sound as if they have a VERY SERIOUS throat problem. And to be on the point of spitting.

Colin Davies said...

Would that you woke up with that determination every bloody day. And occasionally went with it . . .

Colin Davies said...

Now the worst possible example you might have come up with is the one you came up with

And you really think it was me who came up with that word????

Suzan Yahsi said...

We were really happy to give Colin more examples, but he couldn't handle it.

Colin Davies said...

Not the only things I wasn't allowed to handle. . . .

Alfred B. Mittington said...

My dear Suzan,

Why don't you show Colin a few tangible examples of how the Dutch treated the Limeys during the first four Anglo-Dutch wars? (The fifth and last one doesn't count, as the bastards won…)

That'll teach him!


Perry said...

Interest ut per te cognoscere Latinam libere available Googolis auspicio P.
Is est maximus ut vos scire lingua donata googol auspicio P.
Latinam linguam esse perisse
Occisis ueteribus displicuisse Romanis
nunc vero me occidere

Perry said...

Better translation.

Latinam linguam
sicut mortui sunt velut mortui potest esse
Occisis ueteribus displicuisse Romanis
nunc vero me occidere

Perry said...

Alfred B. Mittington said...

Perry, you are a beast !!!