The Dutch created Holland – Q.E.D!

Out of my walk at Kinderdijk came a new curiosity: just how many words does the Dutch language have for ‘waterway’? My initial top-of-mind list had 18 items, but when I got on the Internet and used a few handy sites more words could be added – even a few I’d never knew existed. Anyway, a couple of hours later I had 168 words,  all describing situations of still or moving water on or under the earth’s surface. Am sure I could jack that number up to over 200 – haven’t done water in caves yet, nor part-time waterways like wadi’s, nor did I exhaust the shipper’s language dictionary.

The exercise made a conversation I had with  Brisha, my classmate from Ethiopia, come back to me. During a tour of the Utrecht canals I found myself  trying to explain the Dutch  polders to him. Stymied by lack of proper knowledge on my side and lack of experience with water on his, this wasn’t my most fluent conversation ever. It made me fall back on the old adageWhile God created the world, it was the Dutch who created Holland“. So my next question became: does the Dutch language reflect the effort we spend on keeping our feet dry?  Decided to split my list : man-made, nature-made and generic.  Then counted again, and this is what came out:    83 words for man-made,  79 for nature-made, and  6  in the category ‘generic’.

So man-made won by a narrow margin –  Quod Erat  Demonstrandum



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