One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

Amerika in UtrechtAmerika in Utrecht

There’s a travel agent office next to the Oudegracht that does themed window displays, depending on the dream destination being promoted. Kangaroos for Australia, matryoshka dolls for Russia, and so on. In other words, stereotypical visual shorthand. When I saw the window this past weekend, I couldn’t help but stop and stare.

Sure, the American theme caught my eye. A touch of home, though the images depicted aren’t really the America I know best. I’m an East Coast/Southern girl and this window display had a distinctly Western vibe. Still, I couldn’t help looking at this touch of Americana in the heart of Utrecht.

But then I noticed something seemed not quite right. (Besides the whole cowboy/Indian theme which seems a bit off these days, never mind the fact that two of the statues had a distinctly Village People look to them.) What really threw me for a loop was the Georgia licence plate. As much as I love seeing the Georgia tag again, with its delightful peach, it just does not fit in with the rest of the Western display. Georgia is very much east of the Mississippi, unlike Kansas, Texas, and Arizona.

It’s one of those minor things that only someone who has spent a lot of time in the US is going to notice or care about probably, but it still amused me. Even more so when I saw that they were promoting trips to Amerika and Canada. They zeroed in on one very specific theme that barely scratches the surface of the North American continent, but something still got lost in translation, a bit like the rib restaurant flyer we received a few years ago. It’s always interesting to see how your home country is interpreted by others.

Amerika in Utrecht

There’s an Aap for That

Clean Marketing
Walking down Biltstraat this afternoon, G was the first to notice this promo for the upcoming release of The Rise of the Planet of the Apes. If you look closely, you’ll see the head of an ape with the film title beneath it. They seem to have done a bit of reverse stenciling, by powercleaning the sidewalk to create the image and text, rather than dirtying it with paint or chalk. I’ve always kind of liked this form of graffiti.

The advert reminded us of a bit of standup that Australian comedian Kitty Flanagan did about The Planet of the Apes and the difficulty in subtitling or dubbing the film in French. The French don’t seem to distinguish linguistically between monkeys and apes, which makes one of the scenes in the film hard to translate. The line in the film goes something like, “I’m not a monkey. I’m an ape!” But in French, they use the word singe for both, so you end up with, “I’m not a singe! I’m a singe!” Well, except it would be all in French. (Trust me, I tried to find the video online of Flanagan doing this bit of standup, but I had no luck.)

It turns out, the Dutch are no better. Ape and monkey are both aap in Dutch. It’s a good thing the Dutch don’t dub foreign-language films. I’m dying to see the subtitles for that scene, though. “Ik ben geen aap. Ik ben een aap!” Talk about lost in translation!

Cheese, Sausage and New York

File this posting under random thoughts and observations.

I’ve noticed this year that I’ve seen a LOT of people here (usually student-age) wearing the famous I [Heart] NY t-shirts. It seems too prevalent and too much of a fashion thing to be just the result of a lot of tourism to NYC. The other night, while pointing out to G yet another person sporting one of the shirts, he reminded me that the Dutch do have a special connection to NY. I guess those early Dutch expats were sending back t-shirts to their relatives here in the Netherlands with an I [heart] NA(msterdam) logo, the same way American expats now send back wooden clogs to the family members back home.

Yeah, the whole conversation was much funnier in person.

Speaking of jokes getting lost in translation …
Going through my Twitter feed this morning (I finally got the new Twitter!), I saw a link to this humorous “grilled cheesus” t-shirt. Funny stuff, but I realized that I kind of missed the joke about “The Goude News” upon first reading. Sure, if you pronounce Gouda the English way (gooda), it makes sense and it’s funny. If you pronounce it the Dutch way, you miss something. (If you go to the Wiki page for Gouda, you can listen to the Dutch pronunciation.)

As the famous saying goes, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I know just enough Dutch now to ruin certain jokes for me. Don’t even get me started on this season’s first episode of The Simpsons and their references to Den Haag (The Hague) and such. I guess it was a bit like the Flight of the Conchords‘ joke in that episode when they referenced the Wellington Botanical Gardens. Sometimes jokes work best when you’re not so well-informed! (And in the case of this whole paragraph, if you don’t know what the person is talking about, the whole thing gets confusing. Apologies.)

On the other hand, Dutch pronunciation, when heard by an English-speaker, can be both eye-opening and amusing. We learned about Vocking sausage/meats/liverworst the other night. One of our Dutch friends had a bit of fun with us on that one. Let’s just say that the V in Dutch often has more of an F sound, and leave the rest to your own imagination. I do try to keep this blog somewhat clean. My parents might be reading. 😉 That said, I do recommend Vocking if you’re here in Utrecht. Very tasty! I gather it’s only really available in the Utrecht region, though, as the owner wants to keep it strictly an Utrecht thing.