Friday, June 14, 2013

Tom Swifties (Nederlands)

Tom SwiftWhile waiting to see my huisarts this morning (VGZ required a renewal of my physiotherapie prescription for my ankle) I picked u the office copy of Groet Wiek.  It’s a buurtblad, one of those little magazines, half adverts, half little lifestyle pieces, that pile up next to chairs in waiting rooms and restaurants.  This  week’s had pages on building a droombadkamer, the perfect haven after een lange, drukke dag, a Gehaktballetjes recipe (met Maatrichterstroop, if such  thing even exists), and society photos from a recent Groot Wyck Borrel.

So, I’m idly reading through this, skimming and dipping,when it occurs to me that I am idly reading through this.  No dictionary, no subcaptions, just ordinary, everyday reading.  ‘granted, it’s a buurtblad, but Fantastic!


I had always expected that when the day came that reading was effortless, then my Dutch language learning would really accelerate.  Vocabulary would build by association; grammar through repetition.  There would  be news to discuss, references to share in conversation.  Context and colloquialisms would color my world.

But, damn it, I’m not finding that facility with reading and listening is helping my writing and speaking as much as I hoped.  Finding the words, composing a sentence, conjugating and adding –e appropriately, running the pronunciation, then saying something, is still a enormous task.  So, too often, I fall to using shortcuts.  I re-use a few familiar words (gaan, in particular) because I know the tenses and constructions associated with it.

So, I‘ve embarked on a Tom Swiftie project.

Tom SwiftyTom Swift was a boy genius in 50’s literature, famous for not being able to simply “say” anything.    The author refused to use the word ‘said’, so Tom ‘exclaimed’, ‘cried’, ‘joked’, ‘expanded’ in endless variety.  It spawned a series of sequential puns, known as Tom Swifties:

  • "I might as well be dead," Tom croaked.
  • "We just struck oil!" Tom gushed.
  • "It's freezing," Tom muttered icily.

So, point being, I’m making conscious effort to find equivalent alternatives for my go-to words.  So, for gaan, perhaps vertrekken, lopen, or bezoeken.  For gooien, maybe werpen, smijten, slingeren.  There are useful sites to help find synonyms and antonyms in Dutch, and teasing out the shades of meaning in my van Dale is becoming a bedtime wandelen.

I’ll give myself bonus points if I can make a real Swiftie in Dutch– so far they’ve been few and far between.

And, yes, I was a huge Tom Swift Jr. fan growing up.  No surprise: science, engineering, travel, adventure?  It was the future to me.

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