Language At The Table


I’m trying a new interactive website to help with my Dutch lessons, and I’m starting from scratch to try to get a review of some basics as well as learn some basics I haven’t covered before. Today I’m working on prepositions, as well as the concept of stuff/people sitting at the table or being on the table (among other examples). I’m getting nit-picky and confused, though.

Question #1:
De bloemen staan op de tafel.

Het eten staat op tafel.

Why is de used in the first example (op de tafel), but not in the second (op tafel)? Is there a rule that explains this?

Question #2:
When do items stand on the table versus sit on the table (or any other surface)? E.g.,
De koffie staat op (de) tafel.
De koffie zit op de tafel.

Are both correct? Is one used more than the other? Do I use “de” at all?

I’m trying to look up the answer in some of my other sources, but sometimes it does help to have a person do some explaining, as well. Any explanation will be greatly appreciated.

Rustig vs Stil

Rustig (quiet, calm, tranquil) is one of those Dutch words that I’ve seen regularly, but never remembered to look up the definition until recently. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the election yesterday, I would have written about it for my Woordenboek Woensdag entry. But now, I’ve just come across a piece on the Dutch Word of the Day website about stilte (silence), and now I’m curious and vaguely confused.

I know rustig is an adjective or adverb, while stilte is a noun, but there’s also the adjective form stil (silent, quiet, still). Are rustig and stil interchangeable or is one used in certain instances versus the other? Is rustig used more for happy or peaceful silence, with stil used more for tense, sudden, or eerie silence?

Who knew something that I like could be so stress-inducing!

It’s Obvious!

It’s time for fun with the Dutch language again. I’ve been a bit slacking on my (self-study) lessons recently, but today I was determined to get back in the swing. I do like the Dutch for English-Speaking Expats textbook we found, but every once in a while I run into something that just isn’t explained all that well — or at all. Today was one of those days.

I was working on a dialog about a person’s busy week schedule. That was a bit confusing on its own, because the phrase provided was “drukke week voor de boeg” and while I understood the drukke week part (busy week) the voor de boeg (for the bow/prow?) part still has me a bit perplexed. I assume it’s some sort of nautically based phrase that is normal to native speakers but confusing and nonsensical to us buitenlanders. Still, the book provided a simple translation of the drukke … boeg phrase and I figured it was just one of those things I’d have to simply remember.

Then things took a turn for the worse. I was faced with the phrase, “O, dat valt wel mee.” Quod the f***?, as Eddie Izzard would say. There was no clear translation for the phrase anywhere, and while I sort of understood it in context, there was no way I was going to be able to remember and use it myself in any future context. To me, it translated to something like, “Oh, that falls with” with some untranslatable bits that weren’t helping matters. In a classroom situation, this would be the moment that I’d have my hand raised up in the air, desperately trying to get the teacher’s attention. When you’re studying on your own, though, you can’t do that. Fortunately, I do have Facebook and some Dutch friends who are also on Facebook. I put out a desperate plea for help and was quickly rewarded. The Viking (as he’s affectionately known) helped clear things up for me. In this particular context, it did translate to, “Oh, that’s not so bad,” which is what I was getting from the context. It turns out it’s even fairly straightforward to understand — when you know that the verb is actually meevallen!

It seems that Dutch verbs can be split up in fun and confusing ways! It’s so obvious, isn’t it, that valt wel  mee‘s infinitive form is meevallen. Silly me for being so obtuse. [/sarcasm] Bless its heart, this language is going to put me in the madhouse (de inrichting).

Bits and Pieces

Straight and Round
Originally uploaded by indigo_jones

I’ve been meaning to blog bits and pieces of the past week or so, but keep getting distracted. None of this is particularly exciting, rather just little observations and amusements.

The thing of most interest for us has been the fact that we FINALLY bought a light for the living room. Now that it’s getting darker earlier, we’re realizing a need for more light. My end of the dining table is getting pretty dark. With the new light, we’ll be able to direct more light onto the dining table now.

The lamp we bought is the one pictured here. We had seen it hanging int the window of a vintage shop on Voorstraat and it had caught our eye. We had originally been leaning toward buying a lamp from Nisha, a great little shop, but when we finally went in and saw this one, we just had to get it. Somehow it just seems right with the yellow sofa and orange wall and the salontafel (coffee table) we’re planning on buying. The fact that it’s considered vintage when it’s roughly the same age as I am is something I prefer not to think about too much. The lamp isn’t actually hanging yet. We need to get some little hook to help hold it in place and we also need a bulb, but that should be easy enough to take care of, we think. *fingers crossed* The lack of the necessary hook helped get €10 taken off the price, so we’re not really complaining. We still like the light at Nisha and we may yet end up getting that for the dining room.

Now for the bits and pieces:

  • Christmas is coming. We’ve seen the first Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet items in the shops. Blokker had various toys and candies related to them, as well as Zwarte Piet’s sack and Sinterklaas’ bishop’s hook. Pepernoten are in the stores, as well, and were out at Café de Potdeksel the other night. Kris has a bag of them that was being shared with his friends and he gave us a healthy handful as well. They were better than the ones I tried to make last year. 😉
  • In terms of completely random observations, we’ve been amused at the difficulty so many people seem to have with parallel parking here on our street, even when there’s plenty of space. Many people end up on the sidewalk, others seem to just give up all together, despite enough space for two cars to park.
  • We don’t go down the alleyway next to the house that often, so we sometimes forget that the vines grow a bit quickly. The other night, we got a little note through the mail slot, asking that we trim the vines growing down into the alleyway. At least, that’s what we think it said. We were able to read enough to guess that that was being suggested. As it turns out, I think the woman who wrote the note saw us the next day — after we’d already trimmed the vines. She seemed happy enough and friendly enough from the brief (Dutch) exchange. Well, she spoke Dutch, we nodded, smiled, said a few “ja“s and all went on our way. Sometimes we manage to figure out what’s being said, even if we don’t understand the convo word for word.
  • Speaking of Dutch, we’re getting our first lesson on Wednesday afternoon. It’s a relief to finally have lessons lined up. Even nicer that it’s through a friend and one-on-one (two-on-one?).