250 Dutch Proverbs – lesson 05

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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 5, containing proverbs 41-50.

Proverb 41 “wie a zegt moet b zeggen”

Literally: who says “A”, should say “B”. In other words, if you did the first step, you should go for it. So, for example, you bought running shoes, and you planned to start training the same evening. But then it is raining a little bit, and there is nice program on the television, and you start thinking that perhaps you can go running another time… At that moment someone should tell you: He! Wie A zegt moet B zeggen !

Proverb 42 “appels met peren vergelijken”

Literally: comparing apples to pears. And the equivalent in English is almost the same: comparing apples to oranges. So the meaning is comparing things that you actually cannot compare at all.

Proverb 43 “zijn bedje is gespreid”

Literally: his bed is made. It means that the future looks bright, because everything is prepared. For example, if a child is taking over a well running business from his parents, we usually say “zijn bedje is gespreid”.

Proverb 44 “dat is een brug te ver”

Literally: that is a bridge too far. And that’s an expression in English as well, and the meaning is the same. It all may go well, but when you do not stop in time and you overestimate your abilities, than you may go too far and get into trouble or fail.

Proverb 45 “het bijltje er bij neerleggen”

Literally: to put down the axe. And the meaning is: to give up. You use this expression especially after suffering and fighting for a long time. So if a boxer goes knockout directly, you can’t use it. But if he is during several rounds wobbly and he can’t go further and decides to stop, then you can: het bijltje er bij neerleggen.

Proverb 46 “als warme broodjes over de toonbank”

Literally: like hot sandwiches over the counter. And this expression we use when we want to stress that something is selling extremely well. You can even leave away the last part and just say “als warme broodjes”. For example “toen het 30 graden was werden de ijsjes verkocht als warme broodjes”. In other words; during the hot weather, the ice creams were sold like hot sandwiches.

Proverb 47 “wie kaatst moet de bal verwachten”

Here I should explain the word “kaatsen” which is not a very usual word. It means bouncing, for example when you throw a ball against the wall. And that’s what the expression is about – when you do that, you can expect the ball to come back. Now, what does it mean? If you do something to someone (say something negatively, criticise, or even do harm), you can expect something back. Just don’t expect the other to tolerate anything, be prepared for a reaction.

Proverb 48 “het boetekleed aantrekken”

“het boetekleed” is something from the Catholic Church out of the time that there was not yet the private confession. So who had done something, and confessed had to show it to the public by wearing a kind of shirt made of goat hair. So literally, “het boetekleed aantrekken”, means to put on this shirt. And the meaning will be clear: it is to confess something.

Proverb 49 “zijn handen in onschuld wassen”

Literally: to wash his hands in innocence. And this is in English the same. So the meaning is to declare you’re not guilty. The origin of this proverb is actually an ancient Jewish ritual. In case of a murder – the eldest men of a nearby city had to wash their hands above a sacrificed cow – to avoid the bloodguilt on the city. The expression is also used several times in the bible.

Proverb 50 “iets (veel) op z’n kerfstok hebben”

Kerfstok is a word that we only use in this expression. In English it is a tally stick. Let’s say the ancient hard disk, where memory was stored on a piece of wood by means of carving. In this expression – it refers to a bad record. So “iets op z’n kerfstok” means that he has done something, not good, and “veel op z’n kerfstok” that’s a long bad track record.

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.

Don’t put down the axe. In this course there is no bridge too far. Continue, and your bed will be made!Do not forget to share this video on social media, and to put thumbs up in YouTube.

See you back in lesson 6 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 !