How The Dutch Got Their Funny Names

Several years ago, a Dutch friend told me that some Dutch have funny names.It turns out that this is a story worth telling, possibly repeated in Algeria, with the French playing a part in both.Many Dutch names are of the form:van ("of/from"), de/het/'t ("the"), der ("of the"), van de ("of the/from the"), and in het ("in the") or simply de ("the"). All but the latter denote a place of origin or residence, and the latter an occupation or attribute.In 1811, the French under Napoleon occupied the Netherlands. They started having a census for the purpose of taxation, and forced everyone to have a family name, which was not a common practice for the Dutch.The Dutch thought this would be a temporary measure, and took on comical or offensive sounding names as a practical joke on their French occupiers. Some examples are:

  • Suikerbuik (Sugarbelly)
  • Spring in t Veld (Jump in the Field)
  • Uiekruier (Onion-crier)
  • Naaktgeboren (Born naked)
  • Poepjes (Little shit)
  • Schooier (Beggar)
  • Scheefnek (Crooked-neck)
  • Rotmensen (Rotten people)
  • Zeldenthuis (Rarely at home)
  • Zondervan (without a surname)
  • Borst (breast)
  • Piest (to urinate)

I can imagine the Dutch standing in line to register and having a few laughs at the expense of the French officials, only to have the name stick to them and their descendants for centuries. There were also some names that are not demeaning, rather aggrandazing

  • De Groot (The Great, The Large One)
  • Den Beste (The Best)

Similarly, some were just attributes

  • De Jonge (The younger)

Perhaps a similar thing happened in Algeria after the 1830 invasion by France, where lots of names are demeaning attributes.Resources

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Dutch names

Other names are:

  • Paardebek (Horses mouth)
  • Zonderkop (without a head)
  • Vroegindeweij (early in the field)
  • Uyttewiliigen (out of the willows)
  • Kaasenbrood (Cheese and bread)

Napoleon wanted to set up population registers for tax purposes and to know where the young boys lived who could be drafted into his armies. And he couldn't do that without a fixed name.

These population registers are still there. Each time a Dutchman or woman moves to another town they have to check in and check out. I was threatened with a fine once in Malaysia because I had forgotten to register with the embassy.

One of the main functions of resistance forces during the Second World War was to blow up population registers, for obvious reasons. All the Germans had to do was look in the register and they knew where everybody lived.

To date there is no national identity card in Holland. There is a lot of resistance against that mainly due to the above reason. Unlike Belgium and France where people are obliged to carry ID (passport) with them all the time.

Changing one of these idiotic surnames is almost impossible in Holland. Only the queen can approve a name change and there must be compelling circumstances for her to do so.

This in contrast to countries like Australia where immigrant with impossible names (names like Peereboom, pronounced piribum and meaning "pear tree") can change their name quite easily.

My favorite is "Gekkehuis"

My favorite is "Gekkehuis" (lit. "Crazy House" but more accurately "loony bin"). This was the last name of a coworker when I lived in Holland.

Quite Common

The surname Niemand is quite common in South Africa, meaning "Nobody".

I know one

I think i know this Mr Gekkehuis, he has a nickname, sinfull I believe. great site, i'd like to thamk-you for the info, it will come in handy!. merry xmas & happy new year.

Do you want a pancake?

I live in Holland, and there's this pancake restaurant. It's a farm called after the family who lives there. Guess what it's called: Kots (which is dutch for vomit). So, let's go buy a pancake ^_^

In the next town over from

In the next town over from where I live is a funeral home, owned by the Butcher family... I think you can guess the name of the funeral home: "Butcher Funeral Home". Needless to say they are now talking about changing the name.

A favorite

One of my favorites is Niemantsverdriet. It means "No Man's Trouble". As might be expected, many have shortened it to Nieman, Niemans, or Niemants because, of course, it is far too much trouble.

A joke from the pants

I met one today who had the funniest I have ever heard... Joke van den Broek....meaning "joke from the pants"???? :-)))

This is actually more likely

This is actually more likely to be a Belgian surname (in origin) than a Dutch. In Belgian Dutch, a broek (often also written as brouk or brouck) was a swamp. There are still a lot of places and streets with "broek" or any spelling variant in the name.

I must admit, together with the quite common Dutch first name, Joke, it is funny indeed.

Not so funny actually... Joke

Not so funny actually... Joke is a female form of 'Joe' and 'Broek' is the Dutch word for a wet or swampy field, related to the English word 'brook'. So a translation like 'Joe from the Mudlands' would be more accurate.

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