to embroider, elaborate, embellish
[voort-bor-du-ren, bor-duur-de voort, voort-ge-bor-duurd] 

hands-675899_640The verb ‘voortborduren’ is derived from ‘borduren’: to embroider. So what’s the difference? The adverb ‘voort’ means ‘forward’ (or ‘on’) in Dutch and indicates continuation. So we continue embroidering? Yes, but only figuratively in the meaning of elaborating on an existing plan, theme or trend. It often implies that one continues elaboration along the same path and expands, so it is not about adding detail. So what if you really want to continue embroidering? Then you would say ‘voortgaan met borduren’, although ‘verder gaan’ would be more common.

“Mandie, heb je een heel nieuw liedje geschreven?” – “Niet echt, ik heb voortgeborduurd op het vorige thema, maar deze versie is uiteindelijk wel de beste denk ik.” 
(“Mandie, did you write a completely new song?” – “Not really, I embroidered on the previous theme, but in the end I think this (new) version is the best one.” Note that ‘liedje’ is commonly used for popular songs accompanied by an instrument. A ‘lied’ is usually only sung.)

“Heb je de nieuwste film van Tarantino gezien? Ik nog niet. Borduurt hij voort op zijn vorige films, of is het nu iets totaal anders?” 
(“Have you seen Tarantino’s latest movie? I haven’t yet. Is it similar to his previous movies, or is it something completely different this time?” Note that in Dutch it is also common to say ‘nieuwste’ (‘newest’) when you mean ‘latest’.)

“Ik wil dat jullie niet voortborduren op het voorbeeld uit het boek, maar met iets origineels komen. Succes!” 
(“I do not want you to embroider on the example from the text book, but instead I want you to come up with something original. Good luck!”)

“Zal de nieuwe paus voortborduren op het werk van zijn voorganger of een totaal andere weg inslaan?” 
(“Will the new pope continue along the same lines as his predecessor or will he choose a completely different direction?” Lit. ‘turn onto a totally different road’.)

Related words:
– Voortgaan: to continue, to go on/ahead [verb] [ging voort, voortgegaan].
– Verder gaan: to continue, to go on/ahead [verb] [ging verder, verder gegaan].
– Uitweiden: to elaborate [verb] [weidde uit, uitgeweid]. ‘Uitweiden’ can almost be like ‘digressing’. When you want to say ‘can you elaborate a bit on that’, it’s also common to just say ‘kunt u daar iets meer over zeggen’ or ‘kunt u daarover meer details geven’.
– Borduren: to embroider [verb] [borduurde, geborduurd].

Things to remember from this DWOTD
– The difference between ‘borduren’ and ‘voortborduren’;
– The difference between a ‘liedje’ and a ‘lied’;
– The meaning of the adjective ‘nieuwste’ in ‘nieuwste film’;
– ‘Good luck!’ in Dutch is not ‘goede geluk!’ but ‘succes!’;
– The meaning of ‘een andere weg inslaan’.


crybaby, whiner
[de hui-le-balk, de hui-le-bal-ken] 

football-619243_640A ‘huilebalk’ is an annoying child that cries or whines at the drop of a hat. The word is also used to describe adults who are known to whine quickly, or otherwise easily get emotionally upset. When talking about a baby that cries most of the time (including the night), we use the word ‘huilbaby’.

‘Huilebalk’ is composed of the stems of the verbs ‘huilen’ and ‘balken’. The latter used to mean ‘scream/cry’ however it is not used in that meaning anymore in the Netherlands (see Related words below). The verb ‘huilen’ was originally only used for dogs and wolves (compare ‘to howl’), however it is now the common verb for ‘to cry (tears)’.

“De buren zeggen dat Sam hun zoontje geslagen heeft.” – “Ach, daar geloof ik niks van; dat kind van hen is zo’n verschrikkelijke huilebalk!” 
(“The neighbours say that Sam hit their son.” – “Oh well, I don’t believe a word of that; their son is such a terrible crybaby.” Literally “.., there I believe nothing of…”)

“Ik heb een collega die bij het minste of geringste emotioneel wordt. Onvoorstelbaar, dat je op volwassen leeftijd nog zo’n huilebalk kan zijn!” 
(“I have a colleague who gets emotional at the least little thing. Incredible, how one can be such a crybaby at an adult age.” Literally ‘onvoorstelbaar’ translates as ‘unimaginable’.)

“Als zij verliest, verandert ze in een enorme huilebalk. Vraag het maar aan Aisling, want die speelt altijd squash met haar.” 
(“When she loses, she turns into an enormous crybaby. (Go and) ask Aisling, she always plays squash with her.” The use of ‘met’ in ‘speelt altijd squash met haar’ emphasizes more the social aspect of sports. In order to emphasize the match element, one would use ‘tegen’ instead.)

Related words:
– Aanstellen: to behave like a child, to act childishly [verb] [stelde aan, aangesteld].
– Huilen: to cry (tears) [verb] [huilde, gehuild].
– Wenen: more formal but less used synonym of ‘huilen’ [verb] [weende, geweend].
– Huilerig: tearful, weepy [adjective].
– Dreinen: to whine persistently, snivel (of babies, toddlers) [verb] [dreinde, gedreind].
– Balken: to bray (donkey) [verb] [balkte, gebalkt]. Despite the explanation in the introduction, the verb ‘balken’ is encountered mostly in this translation.

Things to remember from this DWOTD
– The difference between a ‘huilebalk’ and a ‘huilbaby’;
– The use of ‘bij het minste of geringste’;
– The difference between ‘spelen met’ and ‘spelen tegen’;
– The common root of ‘huilen’ and ‘to howl’.


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].

Het was kielekiele

It was really really close
[het was kie-le-kie-le] 

When something was ‘kielekiele’ in Dutch it means it was a very close call, however with positive result. The present tense form (‘het is kielekiele’) can be used when the result is not yet known and that you can’t just tell yet.

You may also hear: ‘het was op het nippertje‘. The difference is that this expression takes on the meaning of ‘just making it’, ‘being just in time’ or ‘at the very last moment’, whereas ‘het was kielekiele’ is more generally used for a ‘close call’.

“Goede vlucht gehad?” – “Ja, maar ik had ‘m bijna gemist. Het was echt kielekiele. Ben zelfs omgeroepen!” – “Nou ja, dat meen je niet!” 
(“Did you have a good flight?” – “Yes, but I almost missed it. It was a very close call. They even announced my name!” – “No way, seriously?!” Lit.: “Was even announced!” – “…, that you don’t mean!”)

“Zo, dat was kielekiele man, waarom haal je zo dicht in??” 
(“Woah, that was close man, why do you overtake so close (to the other car)?”)

“Is de bal over de doellijn of niet?” – “Ik weet het niet, het is kielekiele. Wacht even op de herhaling…” 
(“Did the ball cross the (goal) line?” – “I don’t know, it’s a close call. Wait for the replay…”)

“Het was kielekiele, maar ik heb als één van de laatsten een iPhone 5 bemachtigd!” 
(“It was a close call, but I was one of the last to obtain an iPhone 5!”)

“Myriam, je hebt een 6, maar het was echt kielekiele. De volgende keer moet je je toets echt beter voorbereiden. Afgesproken?” 
(“Myriam, you got a 6, but it was really really close. Next time you have to prepare your test better. Deal?” Dutch test scores are at a scale from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest), with 6 a pass.)

– “Het was net aan”: it was just enough / we just made it.
– “Het was op het randje”: it was close. Lit.: ‘on the edge’, with ‘randje’ being the diminutive of ‘rand’: edge.
– “Het spant erom / het zal erom spannen”: it’s going to be a close call. Compare Spannend.

Related words:
Spannend: exciting, suspenseful [adjective].
– Opluchting: relief [noun] [de opluchting, de opluchtingen].

– “Wat een opluchting! Ik was bang dat je het niet zou redden!”
(“What a relief! I was afraid you wouldn’t make it!”)

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].