Slovenly Sloofs

One of the interesting Dutch words I learnt recently is sloof [sloːf], which means an apron or drudge [source], or “a hard-working woman doing domestic work; e.g. a maid or housewife” [source].

Sloof meaning an apron comes from the Middle Dutch slove/sloof (an apron with short sleeves) [source].

Sloof meaning a drudge or toiling housewife comes from the verb sloven (to work hard, to drudge, to show off). For example, Hij haat me en ik sloof me uit = He hates me and I’m slaving for him [source].

A sloof (drudge) might wear a sloof (apron) and sloffen (slippers) as they slip (slip) around their sloffige (dusty) house seeking a sloop (pillowcase) and trying to avoid a slop (bad situation) and trying not to fall in slaap (asleep).

There are probably plenty of other words beginning with the pleasing combination sl in Dutch – there are certainly plenty in English – slip, slap, slop, sloop (from the Dutch sloep), slide, sleep, and so on.

No Slovenly Dressers Please

The English word sloven [ˈslʌvən] means a habitually dirty or untidy man or boy; a low, base, lewd person, and used to mean an immoral woman. It comes from the Middle Flemish sloovin (a scold), from the Proto-Germanic *slup-. It’s related to Middle Dutch sloef (untidy, shabby) [source].

Artists’ Donkeys

Yesterday while preparing the latest episode of the Radio Omniglot podcast, which is about Dutch, I found that there are quite a few words of Dutch origin in English.

Some come directly from Dutch, some via other languages, such as French, and some come via Dutch from other languages.

  • avast – from the Dutch hou vast (hold tight)
  • bluff – probably from the Dutch bluffen (to brag)
  • booze – from the Middle Dutch busen (to drink to excess)
  • brandy – from the Dutch brandewijn (“burnt wine”).
  • cookie – from the Dutch koekje (little cake)
  • easel – from the Dutch (schilders)ezel (“painter’s donkey”)
  • iceburg – from the Dutch ijsberg (“ice mountain”)
  • knapsack – from the Middle Dutch knapzak (“snack bag”)
  • bamboo – from the Dutch bamboe, from the Portuguese bambu, from the Malay bambu, from the Kannada ಬಮ್ಬು (bambu)
  • cricket (the insect) – from the Middle English creket/crykett/crykette, from the Old French crequet/criquet (locust) from criquer (to make a cracking sound; creak), from the Middle Dutch kricken (to creak, crack)
  • cricket (the game) – perhaps from a Flemish dialect of Dutch met de krik ketsen (“to chase a ball with a curved stick”)

I particularly like schildersezel, or “painter’s donkey”, for an easel. It’s perhaps a relative of the clothes horse, which is also known as a drying horse or garment donkey, apparently.

The word ezel means donkey, ass, mule, fool, idiot, easel, (work)bench or trestle. Related words include:

  • ezelin = jenny, she-ass
  • ezelsveulen = foal of a donkey; utter idiot, hopeless fool
  • ezelachtig = asinine
  • ezeldrijver = donkey-driver
  • ezelsbruggetje = memory aid, mnemonic (“little donkey bridge”)
  • ezelsoor = dog-ear (turned down part of a page – “donkey’s ear”)

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Mulling Mills

Mulled beverages, such as wine, seem to be quite popular at this time of year, at least in the UK. To mull wine, or other beverages, you add spices and maybe fruit, and heat it up. Is this a thing in other countries?

Navidad Irlanda - Mulled wine

According to The Online Etymology Dictionary, mull in the sense of mulled drinks was first used in writing in English in about 1600, and possibly comes from Dutch word mol – a kind of white, sweet beer, or from the Flemish molle – a kind of beer, and related to words for “to soften”.

The word mull, as is in to mull something over, is probably a version of mill (to grind), from the Old English mylen (a mill), from the Proto-Germanic *mulīnō / *mulīnaz (mill), from Late Latin molīnum / molīnus (mill), from molō (to grind, mill) [source].

A mull, as in the Mull of Kintyre, comes from the Scottish Gaelic word maol (bare, bald, rounded promontary), from the Old Irish máel (bald, hornless, blunt), from the Proto-Celtic *mailos (bald, bare) [source].

Mull of Kintyre