child's play, straightforward, piece of cake
[Dutch phrase of the week]
[Kat in het bak-kie]
With "bak" meaning "bin, can, container, tray" this expression makes you think it's about getting the cat in the (cat's) box, which in fact can be very difficult (unless the cat wants to of course 🙂 ). However, "kat" in this expression may in fact mean "money" and the original meaning could be "bringing in the cash" (read more here (in Dutch) ). These days however, you will use it to say that something is very easy, or can be 'considered done!'
You will also hear "Dat/het is/was kat in 't bakkie!"
– "Hoe ging je sollicitatiegesprek?" – "Het was kat in het bakkie, ik word zeker uitgenodigd voor een tweede gesprek!"
("How was your job interview?" – "Piece of cake, I'm sure that I'll be invited to the second round!" Lit. "Surely I'll be invited for a second interview".)
– "Ga je de deadline nog halen denk je?" – "O man, kat in het bakkie. Ik heb het al lang af, maar nu denkt de manager dat ik keihard aan het werk ben 😉 "
("Do you think you will be able to meet the deadline?" – "Most definitely! I've already completed it a long time ago, but this way the manager thinks I'm really working hard 😉 .")
– "De kat moet naar de dierenarts en ik krijg hem niet in zijn mandje!" – "Pff, dat is zeker geen kat in het bakkie! Vat je hem, kat in het bakkie?! Ha ha!" – "Ik vat hem Sander, maar het is niet grappig!"
("The cat has to go to the vet and I can't get it to go in the carrier/cage!" – "Pff, that's definitely no 'kat in het bakkie'! Do you get it, 'kat in het bakkie'?! Ha ha!" – "I get it Sander, it's not funny, that's all!")
– "Eitje": piece of cake.
– "(Het was/is een) Makkie!": very easy to complete or do. Derived from "gemakkelijk": easy.
– Kat: cat [noun] [de kat, de katten].
– Bak: container, bin [noun] [de bak, de bakken]. Diminutive: "bakje" or "bakkie" (informal).
– Kattenbak: cat's box/tray [noun] [de kattenbak, de kattenbakken].
My sister-in-law is a native speaker of Dutch and has lived most of her life in Amsterdam. When I asked her about “kat in ‘t bakkie” she told me that it meant something you get when you are fooled or swindled: in other words, exactly the meaning of the English expression “cat in the bag” (as in “I sure bought a cat in the bag this time”). She said she had never heard of it meaning “piece of cake”, etc., and even denied that it might also mean that.
I wonder if other readers might be able to comment on this, as I find it hard to understand how a native speaker would not have known of this meaning.
Thanks for your interesting comment. Your sister in law may refer to the Dutch expression “een kat in de zak kopen” which means exactly what you describe.
“Kat in het bakkie” however has the meaning that we’ve explained and if you are interested you can read more following the link in the introduction.
@Hecto On the other hand, I am a native English speaker and I have never heard the expression “I sure bought a cat in the bag this time”.
Is that an Americanism perhaps?
Thank you, Sander, I don’t doubt you are right, I just can’t explain why my relative didn’t know the expression.
With regard to your suggestion, Chris, I am an American so you may be right. Aan de andere kant, is “to buy a cat in a bag” not used at all in English spoken outside the USA? Both French and German have the same saying and, as Sander points out, “een kat in de zak kopen” exists in Dutch as well. Is it only “a pig in a poke” in the UK?
I’ve never heard (or even seen in films, etc) that expression over here.
But, then again, I have led a very sheltered life…:-)
I think we are indeed more liable to buy a “pig in a poke” than a “cat in a bag”.
As usual, we’re a little different from the rest of the world!