Historian Philip Traege delves into the American version of the Dutch language towle and unearths fascinating stories.

Historian Philip Traege delves into the American version of the Dutch language towle and unearths fascinating stories.

Historian and author Philip Droge traveled to America to search for traces of the American version of Dutch spoken there. In T towel He tells stories about invisible mountain dwellers, loanwords, tricksters and more. ‘Taught us to be careful with our language.’

Martin Mole

There he was standing on the roadside with a bicycle tire. It is about eighteen km from the nearest town of Kinderhoek. And no Simpson tire repair kit on hand. “That tire patch box is not allowed on the plane,” says Philip Drage (55). “There was something wrong with the glue. When I rented a bicycle in Manhattan, I forgot to buy a set.

Fortunately, he traveled from a boy to Kinderhook in a pickup truck (more on that later).

Dutch, is what the speakers called this American version of Dutch. That’s also the title of the book Philip Droge wrote about it. Loanwords and place names with clear Dutch origins adorn the book’s cover. Winkelhawk, cookie, nature, Bronx, Santa Claus, coleslaw, Katsbaan. According to an American linguist quoted by Drage in his book, ‘the Dutch have left behind personal loanwords of any country in North America’.

“Why did I want to write this book? It was an idea left to mature in a drawer. Like many other ideas in that drawer, sooner or later they will present themselves and become a book. In the early 1990s, while studying linguistics, I worked on a project research project in a university library. Creole In a book about languages, I read in a footnote that a Creole version of Dutch has been spoken on the East Coast of America for three centuries.

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From New Amsterdam to Beverwijk

Interesting, he thought, and the enigmatic footnote I-had-to-do-with-this went into the drawer. A place where it was fermenting all these years.

“Apparently that idea came to fruition last year. I soon discovered that it was not a creole version, but a variant of standard Dutch. Drage wanted to find out what happened to Dutch on the East Coast of America. Then the area from New Amsterdam to Beaverwijk, now New York and Albany. cities.

What traces did the Dutch leave behind since the founding of New Amsterdam in the seventeenth century? How did it spread? And how did the towel turn out?

“What I’m always interested in in my books is that traces of the past can still be found in the present. To show the legacy of what once happened. I think this is a very interesting way to make history.

Drage wrote non-fiction books About the royal family, the eruption of the Tambora volcano in the Dutch East Indies in 1815, the mini-state of Moresnet, and the history of Jakarta. He did extensive research for this book, booked a flight to America and spent over four weeks traveling in a specific area. By bike.

VOC captains

“No, it’s not a gimmick,” he says firmly. “Cycling is a great way to explore the country, and when you get somewhere on a bike you want to communicate immediately, you get a conversation going.” And if you stand on the side of the road on the tire you will get a lift.

This brought him to his birthplace Kinderhook Martin Van Buren, the only president of the United States whose first language was not English (1837–1841). (In the chapter on Van Buren, Drage explains how the universal acronym OK has Dutch origins.) While cycling, he discovers that Dutch has long been a kind of second language.

“What impressed me the most about it was its tenacity, in some cases seven, eight, nine generations had passed and they were still speaking Dutch. Swedish and Danish disappeared after two generations.

“You needed a Dutchman in church every Sunday. Dutch was spoken in some churches until the twentieth century. And the language often persisted for long in isolated places. Especially if you have to climb hills and mountains. If my brow sweats, I know: I’m going to a long-talked-about place. There is also a strong sense of cultural connection with other peoples. Be proud that you are a little different from others.

Droge reveals fascinating stories. Drage demonstrates that the Ramapo, a mountain people who were given the status of an Indian tribe, but who were descended from Dutch VOC captains and African women. (Though he never met a Ramapo.) Or the story of tavlo gunman Laurence Gwyneth van Loon, which reads like a detective story.

Be careful with our language

But he also discovered that a new modern America was being built where the Dutch had led the way. For example, in Albany. “Until 1800 it was a Dutch-speaking town. Forty years later nothing remains. America has a plan; We don’t want to be a country, we are A way of life, we have a goal, we want to have a certain kind of life together. It has no foreign language. Everything is anglicized. And then it goes fast and hard. On April 8, 1962, Dowlin’s last speaker, John Storms, died.

Asked if he learned anything from writing the book: “That language is so important as a carrier of culture. But we in the Netherlands have to be very careful with our language. We pay more attention to our language and don’t always use English words and tell the Dutch that there are no words for it.

Philip Drage shakes his head and then comes up with a very Dutch answer: “Kledskog!”

Daval. How Dutch (Almost) Conquered America

Philip Droge
Spectrum, €24,99
254 pages

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