1 March 2007


Since May will be my fifth visit to Amsterdam, I’m trying to do some serious language study so as not to embarrass myself quite so much this time with my lack of command of the language.

I’m sitting here peeling lots of outer leaves off some Brussels sprouts that I had forgotten in the bottom of the refrigerator while they got rather tired. I didn’t live on tulip bulbs in the winter of ’44 like Rina did, but my parents were both from poor families, and they sure didn’t believe in letting food go to waste, which rubbed off on me and my sister.

While I’m prepping the sprouts, I’ve got Donaldson’s Dutch: A Comprehensive Grammar open to the chapter on verbs, and I’m looking at the ablaut series charts, tearing my hair out because I noticed something perplexing: Instead of three columns of words like in English (sing, sang, sung/ thrive, throve, thriven/ seethe, sod, sodden, etc. for the infinitive, past, and past participle), there are four columns, and I just spent half an hour combing back and forth in the chapter trying to figure out what they represented because Donaldson doesn’t mention this in the neighborhood of the charts.

Finally, I spot in his discussion of the formation of the imperfect that the student had to memorize the singular and plural forms because the plurals are sometimes irregular, so obviously the extra column is for the imperfect plural. Grrrrr. Yet another needless complication in Rina’s language.

But while I’m speaking of Donaldson, OK, he’s a pedagogue, but he does have a sense of humor. Well, I hope he’s intentionally being funny when he writes, regarding Dutch v’s and f’s: “The distinction is a difficult one for foreigners to make and not one worth trying to make: by pronouncing all v’s as f’s you will sound perfectly (northern) Dutch, whereas by trying to make the distinction there is a good chance that your v will sound like an English v, and this must be avoided at all costs.” (Italics mine)

So now I can go back to peeling and trimming Brussels sprouts with one eye on my book while I chant, from series III: delven delfde delfden gedolven/ drinken dronk dronken gedronken/ dingen dong dongen gedongen.

And yes, drinken is drink and delven is delve, but to keep me from getting cocky, dingen means compete.

And not to change the subject, but here’s some Victorian dentals I like over on Scott Street:


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