Humor of Dutch Pronunciation

Humor of Dutch Pronunciation is from a book by humorist Bill Bryson titled ‘Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe’, page 85.

This excerpt is about the humor of trying to understand Dutch pronunciation.


The Dutch are very like the English. They even talk the same as the English.

This has always puzzled me.

I used to work with a Dutch fellow on ‘The Times’, and I once asked him whether the correct pronunciation of the artist’s name was Van Go or Van Gok.

And he said, a little sharply, “No, no, it’s Vincent van ----” and he made a sudden series of desperate hacking noises, as if a moth had lodged in his throat.

After that, when things were slow around the desk, I would ask him how various random expressions were said in Dutch -- International Monetary Fund, poached eggs, cunnilingus -- and he would always respond with these same abrupt hacking noises.

Passersby would sometimes slap him on the back or offer to get him a glass of water.

I’ve tried it with other Dutch people -- it’s a good trick if you’ve got a Dutch person at a party and can’t think of what to do with him -- always with the same result.

Yet the odd thing is that when you hear the Dutch speaking to each other, they hardly hack at all.

In fact, the language sounds like nothing so much as a peculiar version of English.



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