Thursday, January 19, 2012

Frogs and apes

As soon as I knew I'd be moving to the Netherlands it was obvious that I'd also learn Dutch. There was no doubt about it, even though it might mean a temporary throat disease (with all those g's and r's). Integrating to another country is practically impossible if you cannot speak the language of those around you. The Netherlands is quite easy country for foreigners, as practically everybody speaks English. So the motivation to learn has to be there, otherwise it is easy to end up in this "I've been living 5 years in the Netherlands but I can't say good morning in Dutch" type of state.

One of the things I like are proverbs. They are also explaining something about the culture itself. One of the first ones I stumbled on was "aap uit de mouw" which is translated to something along the lines "ape coming out of the sleeve". It was said in a discussion in the parliament between the prime minister and one other member of the parliament. Prime minister was questioning whether someone from the other party had called a person "Islamic monkey", even though he had tried to say that the "Islamic monkey comes out of the sleeve". This conversation about whether it was meant as a proverb or to be taken literally got quite some media publicity.

I thought that it must mean something similar as the Finnish proverb "frog out of the mouth". When you are "letting a frog out of your mouth" it means, that you are saying something you really should not say (even though it might be true). However, the apes coming out of the sleeves of Dutch people actually indicate, that then they reveal their true nature! (In Finnish we would say "reveal your true fur/hair").

But why would somebody hide an ape in their sleeve? Isn't it anyway quite obvious already that there is something, even if it does not come out? Or maybe that is the point, all the people with bumps on their sleeve should be treated with reasonable amount of suspicion. I've also been wondering, what other things the Dutch are hiding in their sleeves. The mystery remains still unsolved...

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