250 Dutch Proverbs – lesson 03

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 Welcome to my video course “250 Dutch Proverbs”. I made a selection of proverbs and sayings that anyone who learns Dutch should know. The course consists of 25 lessons. In each lesson, I explain the meaning of 10 proverbs or sayings.Subtitles are available for each lesson. You just push the CC button in YouTube. The transcript of the lesson you find on Learndutch.org.

Let’s start with lesson 3, containing proverbs 21-30.

Proverb 21 “zijn biezen pakken”

I have to explain the word “bies”. It is not an ordinary Dutch word, and most Dutch probably don’t know the meaning of “bies” in itself. If you talk about biezen mandje (referring to Mozes), the Dutch may understand. “Bies” is bulrush, or wetland plants. It is believed artists in the past, had bulrush mats on which they stored their items. When they needed to move, they took their bulrush mats together. So the expression “zijn biezen pakken”, means to go way quickly or even escape.

Proverb 22 “ver van mijn bed (show)”

Literally: far from my bed. Sometimes “show” is added, and then you talk about de ver van mijn bed show (the far-from-my-bed-show). It refers to something, which is far away, and you actually don’t care about.

Proverb 23 “boontje komt om zijn loontje”

Literally: little bean comes to get his small salary. It means, that if you do not listen to recommendations, or do not obey the rules, then at some moment you will face the consequences or you get punished. This proverb has its origin in a 17th century Dutch play about a bean and a pea.

Proverb 24 “er geen cent wijzer van worden”

It means that you do not get wiser at all. If someone tells you something, and you don’t understand or he tells only things you already knew, you can use this expression. Literally, “geen cent” means not even a penny, or in other words: nothing.

Proverb 25 “de een zijn dood is de ander zijn brood”

Literally: the death of one person means bread for the other one. And the meaning is that the sad story of the one, can be beneficial to the other. So, this expression is not only referring to funeral directors. It can be used in any competition element. For example if one player in a football team gets an injury, then there is always another player who gets a chance.

Proverb 26 “een balletje opgooien”

Literally: to toss up a little ball. And it actually means that you start to explore, if there is a common desire to do something. So it is NOT a proposal or making clear your point of view. It is carefully investigating, while you make known your idea. For example, if you are in some sports club; and you would like to organise a party. If you go to a board member and you say, don’t you think it perhaps would be a nice idea to organise a party. Then that is covered by this expression: je gooit een balletje op bij het bestuurslid. So that is something different than sending an e-mail to all club members where you say: we should organise a party.

Proverb 27 “onder één hoedje spelen”

Literally: to play under one hat. And it means, that there is some secret collaboration going on, usually some unfair practice, or tricks. For example if a thief and a corrupt policeman collaborate, you can say: ze spelen onder één hoedje. And origin of this proverb is the magician’s hat. So being “together under one hat” refers to two or more persons who are together involved in the trick.

Proverb 28 “als het kalf verdronken is, dempt men de put”

It literally means: after the calf is drowned, the well is filled up. An English equivalent would be “to lock the stable door after the horse is stolen”. The expression you use, when you take measures to prevent something, only after that what you wanted to prevent, has happened.

Proverb 29 “tegen de lamp lopen”

Literally: to walk against the lamp. The meaning is to get caught for fraud or cheating. It is believed that the word comes from the criminal language in the early 20th century, where lamp, was a code word for policeman.

Proverb 30 “twee linkerhanden hebben”

Literally: having two left hands. It means that someone is very clumsy or just a very poor handyman.

That’s it for today. You now know 10 more Dutch proverbs.

Let’s do a small exercise. Please take 1 of the proverbs we dealt with today, and think of a situation in which you could use that proverb. Write down that situation and the proverb, in the comments-section that you see below the video, when you watch it in Youtube. And I will personally comment, wether it is used correctly or not.

I hope you got wiser by more than a penny, and this whole course is not just a far-from-your-bed show.Do not forget to share this video on social media, and to put thumbs up in YouTube.

See you back in lesson 4 of 250 Dutch Proverbs. Do not forget to subscribe to our youtube-channel. Just pust the button and you get new videos to learn Dutch every week. And of course visit our website where you can find much more course materials for learning Dutch and you also find there the transcripts of this lesson. See you next time !