250 Dutch Proverbs – lesson 08

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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 8, containing proverbs 71-80.

Proverb 71 “er schuilt een addertje onder het gras”

Literally: there is a viper hidden below the grass. We use this expression when talking about some unmentioned obstacle for one of the parties in making an agreement. For example in case of a so-called hidden clause. If someone on the street approaches you for a 1-month free newspaper subscription, usually “het addertje onder het gras” is that it is automatically converted to a paid subscription after that month.

Proverb 72 “je ei niet kwijt kunnen”

Literally: not being able to get rid of your egg. The meaning is not having the ability to express yourself of to use your creativity. It can be used in quite some situations. For example, if you have good ideas on your job, but your boss does not pay attention. You can also use it when there is no person with whom you can express your feelings. Another situation to use it, is where you have something important to say but you simply do not get the opportunity.

Proverb 73 “iemand de hand boven het hoofd houden”

Literally: to hold a hand above the head of someone. We use this expression in an unjust situation, when someone is protected from above. For example, a policeman causes an accident, and after the investigation done by the same police corps, the evidence is destroyed and the policeman is declared not guilty. We say: hij is de hand boven het hoofd gehouden. As a civilian, I of course hope that in the Netherlands such situations cannot happen. I know that in the situation that I just mentioned, the direct colleagues are never involved. But I have no illusion that in the Netherlands it does not exist.

Proverb 74 “het hemd is nader dan de rok”

Literally: the shirt is closer than the tailcoat. Now you probably think, why isn’t the translation: the shirt is closer than the skirt? Because rok = skirt. That’s true, but rok is also a not frequently used word for a piece of clothing that you wear above the shirt, the tailcoat. I’m sorry the difficulty in our language, for having a homonym with both meanings being a piece of clothing, which have nothing to do with each other.

The meaning of this expression is that one puts the interests of his own family and friends usually first. It can be used in the sense of doing more efforts for someone who is close to you. It can also refer to favouring your own relatives, resulting in a disadvantage of others. For example, if a football coach selects his own son in the team, while someone else is better.

Proverb 75 “van de hoed en de rand weten”

Literally: to know about the hat and the edge. The meaning is: to know a lot about something, or to be very experienced. It is believed the expression comes from the profession of hat making. A good and experienced hat maker knows all parts of the job.

Proverb 76 “doorgestoken kaart”

Literally: pierced card. In English: a put-up job. A situation that has been planned in advance in order to trick someone.

Proverb 77 “iemand van het kastje naar de muur sturen”

Literally: to send someone from the closet to the wall. This expression is used in a typical situation of a bureaucratic system where no one takes responsibility. So you come at one office window, then they send you to an other etc. etc. Usually people in the Netherlands complain about the bureaucratic system. I personally, having lived abroad in different countries, have not such an opinion. I think it is not that bad at all, compared to the countries where I lived.

Proverb 78 “de knuppel in het hoenderhok gooien”

Literally: to throw the club in the hen house. This proverb, you use when someone comes with a new statement, usually an extreme point of view. Often, only with the intention to start or intensify a discussion. The person, who throws the club, not necessarily has such an extreme point of view, but wants the discussion. An example. If you want to discuss work efficiency on the job, but you present it in the way that if you do this and that, then 2 people could be fired… dan gooi je de knuppel in het hoenderhok.

Proverb 79 “de koe bij de horens vatten”

Literally: to take the cow by the horns. The expression is almost the same as in English, where you take the bull by the horns. The meaning is the same: to approach a difficult problem in a very determined way.

Proverb 80 “doen of je neus bloedt”

Literally: to act as if your nose is bleeding. You use this expression when someone acts as if he is innocent or as if he doesn’t know anything about it, in a situation where it is likely he is guilty or knows more about it. A (fake) nosebleed is a diversionary tactic; you do like you’re very busy with something else.

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.

Take the cow by the horns and make sure you know about the hat and the edge! Do not forget to share this video on social media, and to put thumbs up in YouTube.

See you back in lesson 9 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 !