Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dutch proverbs

I came across a website of a foreign student, living in the Netherlands. I really liked his collection of well-known Dutch proverbs (i.e. well-known in the Netherlands, but now also made available for the rest of the world!) Please try to make sense of these sayings and expressions yourself, if you need an explanation, please leave a comment and I will try to clarify the double Dutch for you. But remember - the greatest Dutch philosopher, Johan Cruyff, once said: "If I wanted you to understand, I would have explained it better."

Here are a few interesting proverbs that also give insight into the Dutch mentality; first, some that make sense to an American without explanation:
Keulen en Aken zijn niet op één dag gebouwd = Cologne and Aachen (Charlemagne's cathedrals) weren't built in a day.
Het beste paard struikelt wel eens = Even the best horse can stumble once.
In de kleinste potjes zit de beste zalf = Good things come in small packages.
Holle vaten klinken het hardst = Hollow pots make the most noise.
Er is altijd baas boven baas = Every boss has a boss.
Wie het kleine niet eert, is het grote niet weerd = He who doesn't value small gifts isn't worthy to receive large ones.
Komt tijd, komt raad = After some time (thinking) you will find a solution (to your problem)
Als de ene hand de andere wast, worden zij beide schoon = If one hand washes the other, they will both be clean.

Second, some that refer directly to the Dutch environment (i.e. water):
Je moet niet verder willen springen dan de polsstok lang is = Don't try to jump farther (over a ditch) than the length of your pole (don't let your reach exceed your grasp)
Praatjes vullen geen gaatjes = Talking doesn't fill any holes (e.g. in a dike)
De beste stuurlui staan aan wal = The best helmsmen are those standing on the wall (and watching)
Als er één schaap over de dam is, volgen er meer = Once one sheep crosses the dam, the others will follow.

Finally, some that are fairly unintelligible without explanation. I have given a literal translation but to understand them you have to learn Dutch.
Hoge bomen vangen veel wind = High trees catch much wind.
Je kunt nooit weten hoe een koe een haas vangt = You can never understand how a cow can catch a rabbit.
Een ezel stoot zich in 't gemeen geen twee maal aan dezelfde steen = A donkey doesn't trip twice on the same stone.
Wie een hond wil slaan, kan licht een stok vinden = He who wants to hit a dog can always find a stick.
De soep wordt nooit zo heet gegeten als ze wordt opgediend = The soup is never eaten as hot as it is served.