You Pancake!

If you said to someone “Je bent een pannenkoek!“, they’d probably have no idea what you were talking about, unless they spoke Dutch. This is a kind of mild / affectionate insult in Dutch meaning literally “You’re a pancake”.

It’s often used to refer to oneself – Oh, wat ben ik toch een pannenkoek! (Oh, what a pancake I am!) when you’ve done something stupid, dumb, foolish or clumsy.


Pannenkoek [ˈpɑnə(n)ˌkuk] means pancake, crêpe or flapjack. It comes from pan (pan, cooking pot) and koek (cake, cookie, biscuit, pie).

Pan comes from the Middle Dutch panne (pan), from the Old Dutch *panna (pan), from the Latin panna, a contraction of patina (a broad, shallow dish; a pan; stewpan; a kind of cake; a crib, manger), from the Ancient Greek πατάνη (patánē – a kind of flat dish) [source].

Koek comes from the Middle Dutch coeke (cake), from the Old Dutch *kuoko (cake), from the Proto-Germanic *kōkô (cake). The English words cake, cookie and quiche come from the same root – cake via Old Norse, cookie via Dutch, and quiche via French [source].

Words used in a similar way in Dutch include sufkop (“dull head”, numskull), dommerd (dummy), gekkie (weirdo, goof), oelewapper (ding-dong, dummy, monkey), druif (grape), oliebol (donut, dumpling), koekebakker (“cake bakker”), uilskuiken (“owlet”, nincompoop, birdbrain), flapdrol (fool, nincompoop), mafkees (weirdo, goofball), oen (“castrated donkey”, moron), sukkel (dummy, idiot, twerp) [Information from Anna Rutten and Wiktionary].

Some equivalents of pannenkoek I can think in English are muppet, idiot, wally, plonker and numpty. Others, from Reverso, include: knucklehead, slouch, douche and potato-head.

Can you think of more in English or other languages?

17 thoughts on “You Pancake!

  1. The line where you say “Some equivalents of pannenkoek I can think in English are muppet, idiot, wally, plonker and numpty” doesn’t convey quite what you may think.

    As an English-speaking resident of Michigan, I can tell you that most of these “English” words sound like they are either Australian slang or meaningless. “Muppet” is a children’s TV show.

    The terms “wally, plonker and numpty” register a big fat zero. I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. Not slang, not an English insult, just flat-out nothing. You might as well be speaking in Sanskrit 🙂

    Once again, two peoples separated by a “common” language.

  2. Hee leipo. Moet je natuurlijk wel een plaatje van Nederlandse pannenkoeken gebruiken 😉 Dutch pancakes are plate-sized. (Although the product in the picture might be drie-in-de-pan (“three-in-the-pan”), which basically comes down to American-size Dutch pancakes. We wouldn’t call those pannenkoeken though.)

  3. In response to Drabkikker regarding the picture in the post:
    A person from Sweden like me, would not call the dish shown ‘pancakes’, either.
    To me, those are “plättar” (‘small pancakes’, probably derived from ‘platt’=’flat’
    or from the same root as English ‘plate’=’dish’),
    which are made from the same kind of “slurry dough” as are true pancakes,
    which, as Drabkikker says, should be full plate-sized.
    ‘Plättar’ are usually made seven at a time, in a special pan with seven round spaces.

  4. I’m West German, and I also feel that “Pfannkuchen” or “Pfannekuchen” must be plate-sized, and that it must be possible to roll them up/wrap fillings in them. (“Eine Pfanne” is a flat frying pan, not just any pan. West German “Pfannkuchen” are similar to East German “Eierkuchen”, Austrian “Palatschinke”, and Swiss-German “Omelett”, but I don’t know the differences between them. “Crêpes” are similar in size and shape, but not dough-wise.)

  5. Robert – those words are certainly used in the UK (numpty mainly in Scotland). Some of them may be used in Australia as well.

    Drabkikker – ik heb geen goede foto van Nederlandse pannenkoeken op Flickr gevonden.

  6. In French the most common such word is “con”, or if it’s a woman referring to herself, “conne”: “Quelle conne je suis” — “How silly I am”. In principle it’s not at all polite, but in practice the rude meaning is little used. I can only remember encountering it with its literal meaning in “La Vie Sexuelle de Catherine M.”

  7. Drabkikker, in the US, I rarely come across the term “Dutch pancake”, except in a very few places called “Pennsylvania Dutch” restaurants. (People we call “Pennsylvania Dutch” here are actually of German descent, not Dutch.)

    Sometimes we will see the term “dollar pancakes”, with “dollar” referring to a US silver-dollar coin. This is an odd term even for us, since those coins are only about 1 1/4 inches (3 cm) across, and “dollar” pancakes are bigger than that. In reality, a “dollar” pancake is one of small size, like the kind you describe as “3 to a pan”. That would be about right. We use the term “dollar” to distinguish them from “regular” pancakes that are so large that you could only get one a plate without stacking them.

  8. @ Robert. Ah, yes, I wouldn’t know much about the terminology in the US. I just meant “Dutch” as in “from the Netherlands”, not as a description of the type. I believe there is a difference in the recipe, too: If I’m not mistaken, American pancakes use baking powder, which the Dutch (Swedish, etc.) variety don’t. Just flour, milk, eggs, and a pinch of salt.

  9. @ Drabkikker. you’re right. I never really paid much attention to the package, but checking it just now, the premixed pancake batter in my cupboard does contain baking powder. It acts as a leavening agent that results in lighter and fluffier pancakes, which are also somewhat thicker (like 1/4 inch or 1/2 cm). I suspect the recipe you use without baking power makes very thin pancakes that resemble crepes. I sometimes make crepes myself, and my crepe batter recipe sounds a lot like yours.

  10. @ Robert. Yes, as far as I’m aware French crêpes use the same batter, although they tend to make them even thinner than the Dutch ones.

    Darn, now I want a nice apple/bacon pannenkoek with some ginger syrup 🙂

  11. @ Drabkikker, when I make my pancakes, I use the mix (with baking powder) and then add minced apple to it (a nice, tart apple like Honey Crisp is good, if you can get them). Pare off the skin and remove the center then finely chop and add to batter before cooking. Yummy. I don’t add bacon to the pancake batter but fry some up as a side dish. Some good syrup (maple if you can get it) and breakfast is served.

  12. @ Robert: Sound delish! I’m going to try that on my next go. Are pancakes primarily a breakfast dish where you’re from? In the Netherlands they are more commonly associated with dinner time (comparable to, say, pizza), though having them for lunch and/or breakfast is definitely a thing as well.

    Yup, the Dutch variety doesn’t add the bacon to the batter either: to make a spekpannenkoek you first fry some strips of bacon in the pan, wait till they’re half-crispy, then add the batter and let the result finish together: (see, Simon, now that’s what a proper Dutch pancake is supposed to look like 😉 ). Doesn’t have to be bacon of course; you can put anything you like on them, really. Syrup is a common addition too, though usually the thick, sugar-based, dark brown kind rather than maple, due to the latter being rare ’round these parts.

    Half-related fun fact: Dutch has the words stroop and siroop, both of which translate to “syrup” and obviously share the same origin, but siroop is much runnier than stroop. Hence stroopwafels. But I digress 😉

  13. @ Drabkikker, in the US, I have never seen anyone eat pancakes at any time other than breakfast. Having them for dinner would be very unusual. Although, sometimes people on occasion will eat eggs for dinner, but that’s rare too.

    Here, maple syrup isn’t “rare” but it’s uncommon and more expensive than the usual sugar-based syrup. There are a limited number of places where there are enough sugar maple trees to tap into, and it’s labor intensive to harvest, so maple syrup is usually sold only in small bottles, since large bottles would be too expensive for most people.

    FYI, it’s funny you should mention pizza in conjunction with pancakes. I had a recipe for a “pizza omelet”. It’s not really pizza, but the ingredients make it *look* like a pizza. You start with a green pepper and onion omelet, then add shredded mozzarella cheese on top, and finally put on some tomato and ham pieces as “toppings”. It really looks a lot like a pizza, and tastes good too.

  14. @ Robert. Ah! That’s how my dad likes to make his omelets, sometimes with bacon, mushrooms and other ingredients as well. Absolutely fantastic. We don’t really have a name for it, but some of my friends have started calling it “Drabkikker’s dad’s omelets” 🙂

  15. @ Drabkikker, far be it from me to take away the name you use, but my vote would be for “pizza omelet”. As a descriptive term, it’s a pretty good use of language, since it both describes the appearance and gives a hint to the ingredients common to both dishes (green pepper, onion, ham, mushrooms).

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