314. Na-apen

to imitate, to mimic, to ape [verb] [aapte na, nageaapt] ['naa-aa-pun']

An ape in Dutch is an "aap". The Dutch word "aap" translates as "monkey". The similar English "ape" translates to "mensaap" (a "mens" is a "human"). The preposition "na" usually means "after" but also indicates behaviour or movement of "following something/somebody". Even though the non-existent verb "apen" could already mean "to imitate" – based on the behaviour of apes – we still put "na" in front of it: "na-apen".

The hyphen in "na-apen" is necessary to avoid ambiguity in pronunciation since "aa" is also a Dutch vowel combination. However, the advanced readers might say that if a long "aa" was meant in the first place, then one should have written "napen". This is correct, but the rule is still as applied 🙂 .
You might also see "naäpen" – this used to be the spelling until 1995 (when a big change in spelling occurred).

"Na-apen" is mostly used informally and can sometimes have a stronger meaning than just imitation, see the Examples.

– "Toen ik klein was, aapte mijn zus mij altijd na."
("When I was little, my sister always imitated me.")

– "Een rage kan ontstaan als mensen elkaar gaan na-apen."
("A craze/mania can happen when people start to imitate each other.")

– "Mijn presentatie leek op die van Frank, en nu beweert de leraar dat ik hem heb nageaapt!"
("My presentation was similar to Frank's, and now the teacher claims that I stole his ideas!")

Related words:
– "Na-aper": an imitator.
– "Imiteren": to imitate.
– "Nadoen": to imitate.

One thought on “314. Na-apen

  1. As the words are currently understood in Dutch and English, your translation of ‘aap’ as ‘ape’ is wrong.
    aap = monkey
    mensaap = ape
    grote mensaap = big ape (also in the technical sense)
    aapmens = hominid (since we’ve learned how human some of these must have been we prefer ‘mensachtige’ nowadays)
    The above is just based on my experience, but that includes listening to experts on the subject, as well as laymen, and their usage appears to be consistent.

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