barely, scarcely

The adverb ‘ternauwernood’ originated in the form ‘ter nauwer nood’. The adjective ‘nauw’ here has the meaning of ‘leaving very little space’, so that ‘ter nauwer nood’ is a situation of distress (‘nood’) you can hardly get out of (or avoid). (The adjective ‘nauw’ commonly translates as ‘narrow’. ‘Ter’ means ‘in the’ in this case). Later the three words were combined into one, and the meaning is now a more general ‘barely/scarcely’ or ‘just’ (as in ‘just made it’). However, one mostly uses ‘ternauwernood’ when there are somewhat serious consequences involved.

Note that ‘ter nauwer nood’ is an example of the use of the dative case in Dutch; the use of cases nowadays is rare and one mostly encounters its usage in fixed expressions/compounds.

“De impala wist ternauwernood aan de leeuw te ontkomen.” 
(“The impala barely escaped the lion.” Lit. “managed to barely escape the lion”. Note the verb ‘ontkomen aan’: to escape, to evade. In general one can translate ‘ternauwernood ontkomen’ as ‘it is/was a narrow escape’.)

“Ik heb ternauwernood de trein gehaald; als ik hem gemist had, dan was ik te laat gekomen op mijn sollicitatiegesprek.” – “Ja jongen, je had ook gewoon wat eerder van huis kunnen gaan hè; hoe vaak heeft mamma het nu al tegen je gezegd…” 
(“I barely caught the train; had I missed it I would have been late for my job interview.” – “Well my boy / son, or you could have (just as easily) left home a little bit earlier, well (am I right)? How many times has your mother told you this…”)

“Het echtpaar heeft de frontale botsing ternauwernood overleefd. Volgens de politie is het een wonder dat er niet meer slachtoffers zijn gevallen.” 
(“The married couple barely survived the head-on collision. The policy say it is a miracle that there are no further casualties.” Note that although somewhat redundant, it is common to use the verb ‘vallen’ when talking about victims or casualties as a result of some action.)

– “In het nauw zitten(/komen)”: to be(/end up) in a tight spot.

Related words:
– Nauw: narrow [adjective].
– Nauw: distress, tight spot/corner [noun] [het nauw, <no plural>].
– Nauwelijks: barely, hardly [adverb].

– “Hoe durf je zo te klagen; er zijn kinderen op deze wereld die nauwelijks genoeg te eten hebben!”
(“How dare you complain like this; there are children in this world who hardly have enough to eat!”)

– Nood: distress [noun] [de nood, de noden].
– Net: just, barely [adverb].

Things to remember from this DWOTD
– The meaning of ‘a frontale botsing’;
– The use of the verb ‘vallen’  in ‘er zijn slachtoffers gevallen’;
– The meaning of the adjective ‘nauw’ versus the noun ‘nauw’.


to stand in the cold (suffering), to be extremely cold
[blauw-bek-ken, blauw-bek-te, ge-blauw-bekt] 

girl-15715_640‘Blauwbekken’ is what you do when you’re standing outside in the cold shivering. However sometimes you can also use it in other situations, just to emphasize how cold you are!! The word ‘bek’ is slang for ‘mouth’ and sometimes even ‘face’. And I guess you can figure out ‘blauw’. If not, go outside without a jacket (if in NL) and come back in an hour 😉

‘Blauwbekken’ is used colloquially.

“Dimiter, wat ben je laat man!”- “Ja, en ik heb het ook nog koud, ik heb een half uur staan blauwbekken bij de tramhalte omdat de tram niet kwam opdagen!” 
(“Dimiter, you’re (really) late man!” – “Yeah, and I’m cold too, I stood in the cold for half an hour at the tramstop because the tram didn’t show!” Note that with the verb ‘blauwbekken’ it is not common to use the past participle, and one uses ‘staan’ instead which also indicates it was a prolonged activity.)

“Het is om te blauwbekken zo koud!”- “Ach, stel je toch niet zo aan!” 
(“It’s so cold it makes one ‘blauwbekken’ (‘turn blue’) !” – “Ah, don’t be a whimp!” Note the reflexive verb ‘zich aanstellen’ that you will hear used as in this example sentence but also variants such as ‘je stelt je aan!’. The related noun is ‘aansteller’. The first part of the example sentence shows the use of the common construction ‘het is om te [verb] zo [adjective]’: it’s so [adjective], it makes one [verb].)

“Catharina, mag ik van jou een sjaal lenen, en misschien ook een trui?”- “Hoezo, ben je bang dat je anders gaat blauwbekken vanavond?” 
(“Catharina, can you lend me a scarf, and perhaps also a jumper/sweater?” – “Why, are you afraid you will be standing in the cold tonight?” Lit.: “…can I borrow from you …”)

“Het duurt gewoon heel lang voordat ik het warm krijg! Ik lig zelfs in bed onder twee dekens nog een tijd te blauwbekken!” 
(“It just takes a very long time before I get warm! Even in bed under two blankets I’m still extremely cold for quite some time!”)

Related words:
– Kou(de): cold [noun] [de koude, <no plural>].
– Kou lijden: to suffer from the cold [verb] [leed kou, kou geleden].
– Bibberen: to shiver [verb] [bibberde, gebibberd].
– Rillen: to shiver, shudder [verb] [rilde, gerild].
– Klappertanden: to shiver with cold (with chattering teeth) [verb] [klappertandde, geklappertand].

Koffiedik kijken

to try and predict the future, to read the tea leaves
[kof-fie-dik kijk-ken]
[keek koffiedik, koffiedik gekeken]

coffee-363941_640‘Koffiedik kijken’ is a form of ‘tasseography‘: fortune-telling based on the interpretation of patterns in coffee grounds. The practice of ‘koffiedik kijken’ is not common in the Netherlands. The expression however is 🙂

‘Het/dat is koffiedik kijken’ is also often used in the meaning of “that’s hard to say”, “that’s difficult to predict” or ‘who knows?’

“Wanneer denkt u de verbouwing van het museum is afgerond?” – “Tja, dat is een beetje koffiedik kijken; er zijn heel veel factoren die van tevoren lastig in te schatten zijn.” 
(“When do you think the renovation of the museum will be finished?” – “Well, there are many factors involved, all of which are difficult to assess up front, so it’s difficult to say really.”)

“Ik wil graag een weekendje naar Amsterdam in het najaar. Wanneer kan ik het beste gaan?” – “Jeetje, nou, dat is koffiedik kijken hoor; het weer is dan heel wisselvallig!” 
(“I would really like to go to Amsterdam for a weekend in (the) autumn. When is best to go?” – “Gee, well, that’s hard to say; the weather is very unstable in that time of the year.” In Dutch ‘het najaar’ can be used as a synonym for ‘herfst’: autumn. However in daily use it may extend until the end of the year.)

“Wat kan ik zeggen, ik kan geen koffiedik kijken!” – “Nee, dat snap ik, maar je kunt toch wel een inschatting maken?” 
(“What can I say, I can’t predict the future!” – “No, that I understand, however you can make an educated guess, can you not?”)

“Hoe zal het nu aflopen met de crisis in Europa?” – “Jongen, daar heb ik een kort antwoord op: het is koffiedik kijken! Zo, nog een biertje?” 
(“How will it (all) end with the crisis in Europe?” – “Mate/man, I have a short answer to that: who knows?! There, another beer?”)

– “Een vooruitziende blik hebben”: to have a foresight/vision.

Related words:
Toekomst: future [noun] [de toekomst, <no plural>].
Voorspellen: to predict [verb] [voorspelde, voorspeld].

– “Als we alles zouden kunnen voorspellen dan zou het leven een stuk makkelijker zijn. Of juist niet, het is maar hoe je het bekijkt!”
(“If we were able to predict everything, then life would be a lot easier. Or not at all, it all depends on how you look at things!”)

– Waarzegster: fortune-teller [noun] [de waarzegster, de waarzegsters]. For some reason the default gender for a fortune-teller in Dutch is female. The male version would be ‘waarzegger’ but you don’t hear that often.
– Voorgevoel: premonition [noun] [het voorgevoel, de voorgevoelens].
– Inschatten: to assess, to judge, to make an educated guess [verb] [schatte in, ingeschat].


[de ver-ras-sing, de ver-ras-sing-en] 

3203922211_0d55195a4f_zSurprise, the DWOTD is back 🙂 After 2,5 months of chasing building constructors I have almost shooed the last one away (but not without delivering what was agreed 😉 ). And I realized that one shouldn’t wait with starting one’s new life until all external issues have been resolved. So the DWOTD is back. Time to start practicing your Dutch again!!
(Photo: Michelle Tribe (flickr.com) – some rights reserved.)

‘Verrassing’ is often misspelled. Don’t forget: two r’s, and two s’s 🙂

“Ver-ras-sing!” – “Nou, jongens toch, dit had mamma echt niet verwacht!” 
(“Sur-prise!!” – “Guys! No! Your mother really had not expected this!”)

“Wat een ontzettend leuke verrassing zeg; dit had ik nooit durven dromen!” 
(“What an incredibly nice surprise; I could never had dreamed this would happen!”)

“Toen ze in het hotel aankwamen, wachtte hen een heel onaangename verrassing: hun kamer bleek niet meer beschikbaar te zijn.” 
(“When they arrived at the hotel they were unpleasantly surprised: (it turned out) their room was no longer available.” Lit. “… a very unpleasant surprise awaited them…)

“Je gaat me toch niet vertellen dat dit een verrassing voor je is! We hebben al diverse malen aangegeven dat je prestaties onder de maat zijn. Sorry, maar dan rest ons niets anders dan je te ontslaan.” 
(“Surely you are not going to tell me that this comes as a surprise to you! Several times we have indicated that your performance is below standard. We’re sorry, but there’s nothing left for us to do than to fire you.” Lit.: “…that your achievements are below standard.” Note the use of “er rest [reflexive pronoun] niets anders dan…”: there’s nothing left to do to for [object pronoun] than…”)

“Ik vind dit niet echt een leuke verrassing moet ik eerlijk bekennen. We hadden iets totaal anders afgesproken!” 
(“To be honest I have to admit I do not (really) find this a nice surprise. We agreed on something completely different!”)

“Je weet dat je vader niet van verrassingen houdt, dus hou het alsjeblieft een beetje bescheiden.” 
(“You know your father doesn’t like surprises, so please keep it a bit modest.”)

– “Die zag ik (niet) aankomen”: I saw (did not see) that one coming / I knew (had no idea) that was going to happen.

Related words:
– Verrassen: to surprise [verb] [verraste, verrast].
– Onverwacht: unexpected(ly) [adjective/adverb].
– Verwachten: to expect [verb] [verwachtte, verwacht].

– “Ik had dit wel verwacht. Was het voor jou wel een verrassing dan?”
(“I kind of expected this. Are you saying you were surprised?” Lit. “Was it a surprise to you (then)?”)

Surprise: surprise [noun] [de surprise, de surprises]. Typically only used in the context of the Sinterklaas tradition. Check out the post on Surprise for more information.
– Surpriseparty: surprise party [noun] [de surpriseparty, de surpriseparty’s]. Literally this would be a ‘verrassingsfeestje’ however it is not really a part of our culture, so we both imported the custom and and the word 🙂

Belofte maakt schuld

when you make a promise, you have to keep it
[be-lof-te maakt schuld]

Literally ‘promise makes debt’ this phrase says that one ought to keep one’s promise. It’s often used during arguments or when emphasizing that it is in fact a promise one is living up to.

“Hoezo heb je geen tijd om mij te helpen? Je zou me helpen behangen, dat heb je beloofd en belofte maakt schuld!” – “Ja, maar…” – “Nee, niks ja maar!”
(“What do you mean you have no time to help me? You are supposed to help me wallpaper, you promised (it) and when you make a promise, you have to keep it!” – “Okay, but…” – “No buts, I don’t want to hear it!”)

“Ik had niet verwacht dat je nog zou komen…” – “Ach, belofte maakt schuld hè. Bovendien vind ik het leuk om van de partij te zijn.”
(“I didn’t expect you would show…” – “Well, I promised didn’t I… Besides, I enjoy being here.” The phrase ‘van de partij zijn’ is used when you will participate in an activity or be part of an occasion.)

“Vorige week heb ik beloofd om meer informatie te verschaffen over de toekomst van ons bedrijf. Belofte maakt schuld dus vanmiddag zal ik deze belofte inlossen.”
(“Last week I promised to provide more information on the future of our company. When one makes a promise, one has to keep it so this afternoon I will redeem this promise.”)

– “Beloofd is beloofd”: a more informal alternative to ‘belofte maakt schuld’. Literally: ‘promised is promised’. Often used by children when you are not keeping your promise about candy/sweets or the fun park you were supposed to go to…
– “Een loze belofte”: an empty promise.
– “Zich aan zijn woord houden”: to keep one’s word.
– “Zijn belofte houden/nakomen/inlossen”: to keep/fulfil/redeem one’s promise.

Related words:
– Belofte: promise [noun] [de belofte, de beloftes].
– Beloven: to promise [verb] [beloofde, beloofd].
Schuldig: guilty [adjective/adverb].