250 Dutch Proverbs – lesson 06

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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 6, containing proverbs 51-60.

Proverb 51: “met beide voeten op de grond staan”

Literally: to stand with both feet on the ground. The expression, like in English, you use when you keep realistic and stable, in a situation where you might get euphoric. It is often used in the sense of not letting your character being spoilt because of becoming famous.

Proverb 52: “liefdewerk oud papier”

The word “liefdewerk” is actually a non-frequently used word for charity. In Dutch, when we talk about charity we usually use the words “het goede doel” (literally the good goal). ‘’Liefdewerk oud papier” can be translated as: charity old paper. You use it to stress an activity was done as a volunteer. Although most people use this expression in practice to really stress they got nothing for it, in its origin this expression had a little blame in it. “Old paper” refers to the process of collecting waste paper. In the Netherlands, a municipality often outsources this job to some association or sports club in the village. The work itself is not paid, but the waste paper can be sold to paper recycling companies. So the original meaning of this expression – is that you do voluntary work, but actually you still get some benefit from it. Nevertheless, now the expression is used widely, and no one thinks actually of this blaming issue. So don’t be offended, if someone describes your voluntary job as: liefdewerk oud papier.

Proverb 53: “door de mand vallen”

Literally: to fall through the basket. The meaning is: to be unmasked. You usually use it in situations when a person first is denying an accusation, but then the evidence against him accumulates so it gets clear he really was lying. It is not really sure where the expression comes from, but one of the explanations is that it refers to a medieval torture. A person was put in a basket without food and drinks, but with a knife. The audience would throw stuff at him, and from the moment he could not withstand it anymore, he cut a hole in the basked, fell down and then had to run out of the city.

Proverb 54: “olie op het vuur gooien”

Literally: to pour oil on the flames. The meaning is the same as in English. It is used when someone makes a discussion or quarrel worse, by making an extra statement.

Proverb 55: “uit zijn neus zitten eten”

Literally: the process of nose picking and consuming the harvest. I found out that in medical terms, this is considered mucophagy. I did not know that word. Actually, as long as a person is not ill, it has some immuno-health benefits. Now, the expression in Dutch should not always be taken literally. Because the meaning is: doing nothing. So if you ask your Dutch friend, how was his day at the job? And he answers: I was all day nose-picking and eating it, then probably he wants to tell you, he was just doing nothing. So don’t consider your friend disgusting. Although, there are people who take this expression literally.

Proverb 56: ”een olifantenhuid hebben”

Literally: to have an elephant skin. The meaning is that someone is insensitive to criticism and blaming. An elephant skin is very tough, about 2,5 centimetre thick (1 inch). So, critics can’t go through.

Proverb 57: “oost, west, thuis best”

Literally: east, west, home best. And the meaning: there is no place like home.

Proverb 58: “zoals het klokje thuis tikt, tikt het nergens”

And this is just another proverb with the same meaning. Literally: like the clock is ticking at home, it is ticking nowhere.

Proverb 59: “voor Pampus liggen”

Literally: lying for Pampus. You use this expression when you are not able to move. For example because you are tired, drunk, or because of the heat. Now what is Pampus? Ages ago, it used to be a sandbank, east to the harbour of Amsterdam. Ships had to wait for the high tide on order to be able to enter the port. During the waiting time, they could not move and where lying for Pampus. The situation has changed. First, because the ships enter the Amsterdam port from the West, by a direct channel to the North Sea. Secondly, there is no tide anymore, where used to be Pampus, because the sea at the eastside of Amsterdam has become a lake after a 32 kilometre dam was built 80 years ago, turning the Zuiderzee into the Ijsselmeer. And the sandbank Pampus, has turned into the island Pampus with a fortress on it.

Proverb 60: “de pijp aan Maarten geven”

Literally: to give the pipe to Maarten. It means “to give up”. It is often used in sports – especially in cycling. Sometimes it is also used to express someone dies. I wish I could tell you who Maarten was, and where the expression comes from. There are too many theories about it. One possible explanation could be, that the month of march, in Dutch “maart”, usually is the period of fasting. This month usually covers the Lent, the 6-week period before Easter. So it may originally refer to “giving up smoking” in this period.

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.

Please continue with this course, don’t eat from your nose, and don’t give the pipe to Maarten. Please share this video on social media, and to put thumbs up in YouTube.

See you back in lesson 7 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 !