bright, sharp, quick-witted [adjective]

"Bijdehand" is a contraction of "bij de hand", the latter meaning "at hand" (see ‘Related words’). The ‘d’ at the end sounds like a ‘t’, and when conjugating this adjective declining this adjective by adding an ‘e’ to the end, Dutch people get confused; should we write "bijdehande" or "bijdehante"? The first does not sound right, and the second looks strange since now the ‘d’ that belongs to ‘hand’ has disappeared. However, the latter is the correct way of spelling (but it is still a bit weird; see ‘Examples’).

This word is quite often used in a derogatory or ironic way.

– "Dat jongetje is behoorlijk bijdehand voor zijn leeftijd!"
("That boy is pretty quick-witted for his age!")

– "Het bijdehante meisje stak bij elke vraag van de leraar haar vinger in de lucht."
("The bright girl raised her hand at every question from the teacher." Literally: "… stuck her finger in the air.")

– "<spottend:> Zooo, bij-de-ha…and…"
("<mockingly:> Wooow, briiight…" … or something :-). "Zo" is a bit like "well" but it can also be used as an expression of astonishment. Remember, it sounds like "zoa", not "zoo".)

– "<ironisch:> Bijdehante actie zeg!"
("<ironically:> Smart move, eh!")

– "Doe niet zo bijdehand!"
("Don’t be smart now!")

Related words:
– "Bijdehandje": quick-witted person (often derogatory/ironic).

"Wat een bijdehandje!"
("What a know-it-all!")

– "Bij de hand": at hand.

"Heb je een schroevendraaier bij de hand?"
("Do you have a screwdriver at hand?")

6 thoughts on “Bijdehand

  1. I know this is ridiculously pedantic, but you don’t say “conjugate adjectives” in English: you conjugate verbs and decline adjectives (and nouns). Mark Twain said he’d rather decline two drinks than one German adjective.
    What are the Dutch terms then, for conjugating and declining? and for nitpicking, hairsplitting, pedantry?

  2. Hi Daisy, since English is not our native language, we welcome any corrections! So there’s nothing pedantic about your remark 🙂 Actually, you are quite ‘bijdehand’ (in a positive way! 😉 )
    I’m quite happy to learn this. I assumed that in Dutch the verb ‘vervoegen’ (which would translate to ‘conjugate’) is used in both cases; hence my incorrect translation. After reading your comment I looked it up and my hypothesis was incorrect to begin with. The Dutch word for ‘to decline’, in this context, is ‘verbuigen’. This can also mean ‘to bend’ or ‘to twist’ (an object).
    Thanks! Oh yes, your other question is a good suggestion for tomorrow’s DWOTD!

  3. The Dutch have some great terms for nit-picking. The most-popular and by far the best is ‘mierenneuken’ which literally means ‘antf**ker’ somebody who is so obssessed with small details that they would probably attempt to fornicate with an ant…
    It’s in the Dutch Dictionary.

  4. As with a lot of Dutch expressions. Splitting Hairs can be directly translated as haarkloven or to split hairs. Exactly same expression meaning in both languages.

  5. Would it be correct to interpret bijdehand as a smart alek? or a person who is sarcastic? or someone who likes to tease?
    In the States, smart alek or even less formal smart ass, is used both derogatory and somewhat affectionately for someone who constantly tells jokes or makes puns or even someone who is pedantic. Smart alek is probably a dated word but one my mother used a lot with us as kids. So, depending on the tone, she may have been scolding or she may have been amused.

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