Numbers, Dutch Style

Achtentwintig
A few weeks ago, the tv series Fringe (which you should all be watching) started off an episode with various people gathered around radios, listening for certain numbers. The first numbers we heard? They were in Dutch! If you’ve seen the episode, you will remember the reactions the characters had upon hearing the numbers: heads clutched between hands in agony. Technically, it wasn’t that the numbers were in Dutch that caused the pain, although when I first began learning Dutch numbers, I must admit I probably looked the same at times!

Back when I was learning French in high school, I remember thinking that the French way of counting the 90s was bizarre: four twenty ten (four times twenty plus 10). Why make it more difficult than it needs to be! Then I discovered how the Dutch do two-digit numbers. Take 28 for example, as seen in the address in the photo. In English, you would say twenty-eight. In Dutch, it’s “eight and twenty”. Any number from 21 to 99 (excluding 30, 40, etc.) is done this way: eenentwintig (21), negenennegentig (99). It makes sense, and I still prefer it to the French mathematics, but it does take some getting used to.

The difference can also lead to confusion when translated. As an English speaker, when I mentally translate the numbers, it’s not uncommon for me to hear achtentwintig (28), but transpose it to 82 in my head. The Dutch have the same problem sometimes when trying to say a number in English. For them sixty-three can become 36. It’s all a matter of perspective.

This is one of those things that can be frustrating, but can also be interesting. It’s one of those little differences that I enjoy … unless I’m trying to keep a lot of numbers straight at one time!

And Now For Something Completely Different

This bit of news that happened today seems like it should be something from a Monty Python sketch. I follow Utrecht_City on Twitter and they had a few tweets about sirens and fire and police somewhere near the Neude. I had heard a lot of sirens shortly before that, so I was curious as to what was going on. They soon followed up with the following tweet:

brandweer rukt groot uit nabij hardebollenstraat, utrecht. (Het werd er iets te heet!!;-)

This is where things get funny. If you put that into Google translation you get the following translation, which breaks down some of the words a bit too much:

Fire ripped off big hard balls around the streets, Utrecht. (It was a little too hot !!;-)

Hardebollenstraat is a street name, which does translate to Hard Balls Street, but obviously, something got a little lost in translation. I think a slightly better translation is something along the lines of “fire tears through nearby Hardebollenstraat.” (Anyone who has a better grasp of Dutch should feel free to leave a better translation in the comments.)

It all gets a bit funnier — and the parenthetical aside about it being a little too hot makes a bit more sense — when you realize Hardebollenstraat is the small red-light district street here in the city center. A hilariously appropriate street name, it seems! (And now all of you who find my blog while searching for the red light district in Utrecht know where to go.)