Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I've been meaning to comment on the name "the Netherlands," because of its peculiar plurality and definite article, and because of the confusing uses of "Holland" and "Dutch." Coincidentally, my wife's young cousin said something hilarious the other day that I have to include... Meredith said, "We're moving to the Netherlands." He replied, "Oh, I know about that -- it's like Never-neverland, right?" Um, yeah. Hopefully, at least, the Tinkerbell version and not the Michael Jackson version.

Anyway, "the Netherlands." As I understand it, this is a literal description of what may synonymously be described as "the low country." In French, the name of the nation is "Les Pays-Bas," which looks nothing like "the Netherlands," but which translates literally exactly the same, and which is also plural. In Dutch, the name of the nation is "Nederland." No plural, no article -- and, in my opinion, much tidier and easier to use. In fact, I may use "Nederland" in future posts, as well as the much more efficient abbreviation "NL," which is used in official capacities, on oval car stickers, as well as the end of URLs (e.g. http://www.philips.nl). Perhaps you saw the abbreviation "NED" used in the recent Olympic Games, or saw the Dutch swimmers' outfits with "Nederland" across the front in a really cool typeface.

So what about "Holland?" Though often used interchangeably with "the Netherlands," Holland actually is the name of a subregion of the Netherlands. The major cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and the Hague (den Haag, another interesting use of definite article that is used in both English and Dutch) are all in Holland, while Eindhoven, where I'm moving, is not. For the most part, people here and there say Holland inclusively and get away with it, but I'm going to try to be a little careful about it if I can. I got caught once already -- I told a friend I was getting ready to move to Holland, told him a little about the job and the city of Eindhoven, and he replied, "wait, that's not really Holland, then, is it?" Wiseguy! Along these lines, the term "Hollanders" describes people from Holland, though is sometimes used to describe people from elsewhere in the Netherlands, but the term "Dutch" properly describes all people in the Netherlands.

I haven't determined the proper etymology and usage of "Hollandaise," but I will report back after seeking out some more eggs Benedict.

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