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:

  • Borst (breast)
  • Naaktgeboren (Born naked)
  • Poepjes (Little shit)
  • Piest (to urinate)
  • Rotmensen (Rotten people)
  • Suikerbuik (Sugarbelly)
  • Spring in 't Veld (Jump in the Field)
  • Schooier (Beggar)
  • Scheefnek (Crooked-neck)
  • Uiekruier (Onion-crier)
  • Uittenbroek (out of his pants)
  • Zeldenthuis (Rarely at home)
  • Zondervan (without a surname)

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.



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.

Not true

Not true

Definitely not true. The

Definitely not true. The name 'Joke' came from a very popular novel in the forties, and thus became a very popular name in Amsterdam at that time.

I'm sorry to spoil the joke

I'm sorry to spoil the joke but "broek" in this context means swampy area.

High Tits

My favorite colleague has this surname Hoogenboezem. Nothing beats "High Tits"...LOLz!!!

Where can we find help?

We have a friend in Abbotsford, B.C., Canada, who loves to tell the story of his first grade or kindergarten teacher in Friesland, the Netherlands. Somewhere in the story, he proudly refers to her as Mevrouw Hoogenboezem, which elicits giggles from the female guests and guffaws from the males.

E TAK, in Russian, and so, changing the subject from the mundane and bawdy, to what brought me to this site: I would like help in finding out something more about the origins of the name Haverhals. I was told a very interesting story, not the one on your site which I have been told over and over again, told my teachers of Dutch history to school children in the Netherlands for centuries, and passed on to the third and who knows how many generations of descendants of Dutch immigrants to North America, as to their Napoleonic Era origins and the Dutch making a joke of it all, which turned of them, for who really wants to be called 'Pissed' or 'Naked Born'? And I have met some of these people at college in Michigan when I was studying at Calvin, and who of us were not (born naked)?!!

The story teller was 3rd or 4th cousin Haverhals relative still living in the ancestral village of the Haverhals clans (Sprang, Nord Brabant, Nederland). The major segment by far of this clan descended from a couple born around 1870 now are living in the American Midwest. From other distant relatives of this couple there are many other Haverhals families, not tons, but many who don't even know of one another's existence, I am discovering, living in other places in the Netherlands, North America and around the world also. I will not tell you this Haverhals gentelman's take on the origins of the name. It is somewhat ennobling, and therefore, with a suspicious sleuth's mind, I am a bit wary as to accepting it and its possible implications historically. I never knew whether to believe him or not.

Recently the Sprang relatives have discovered information in Hervormd Kerk archives with a list of names going back to approximately 1620 with the continuing use of the name Haverhals from generation to generation after that. So, the name predated the Napoleonic officials', around 1800 or shortly thereafter, trying to keep better records for his new 'Franco-Roman Empire' of sorts, an earlier attempt at a Third Reich, not recognized as such by Hitler because he would not even consider honouring the French, whom he hated, as having been capable of even making such an attempt and being successful, until Napoleon's unsuccessful attempt to take Russia too, resulting in his humiliating Winter Retreat in 1812 from Moscow and the East. The Haverhals name change took place when the church building was taken from the Roman Catholics; since then the building has remained property of the Reformed, this year or last year, its congregation having celebrated 400 years of continued existence as a Gemeente/congregation of the 'Elect.' :) Before that the names given as parents and ancestors of the Haverhals line were Mieuws and Mieuwz. I tell my brothers that that was the customary manner of naming at that time, a variation of Abram Janzoon (Janz.), then Jan Abramzoon (Abramz.), then Abram Janzoon (Janz.), and on and on, and so on, until Napoleon ended it for all those who had not for one reason or another ended the practice because they had wealth, education, land, or aristocratic title and estates or larger territories at their command and so had taken surnames when the opportunity arose for them to do so.

The puzzle there is that the list only uses the one first name and the variant form with the 'z' which stands for 'zoon,' meaning 'son' and so, son of Mieuws. I never paid attention to the email sent by a brother from the relatives in Sprang if the two M names that predated the taking of the name Haverhals between 1600 and 1620 as to whether the names are always alternating, every other one being Mieuws and Mieuwzoon. My main concern is not with this matter, however, but with why the last Mieuws or Mieuwzoon would have decided in this early decade of the Reformed congregation's occupation of the old Catholic church still standing in the village to have chosen this name, Haverhals.

What is its significance? Both the significance of having taken a surname so much earlier and in the two words, Haver and Hals and brought together as one name? Does it have to do with being grain farmers? horses who do especially well on a diet of oats? Does it have to do with the possible fact that they were in the employ of some local lord in the late 16th and early 17th century?

This was the case with a more recent relative at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century who was the bailiff for the Graf/Lord of Waalwijk, for whom the VanderHoeven father of my great-grandmother Haverhals. However, he was NOT a Haverhals. Another point that keeps being brought up by the Sprang relatives is that people of similar class and wealth in the villages usually married one another. Thus, my great-grandfather's parents would have had to have been considered to have been equals in status to the graf's bailiff, whose large home is one of the few historical monuments and preserved buildings in the village of Sprang Capella, located near the entrance to the long strip of the three Capella villages.

According to A. Haverhals, the Lord of Waalwijk would visit my Great-Great-Grandfather VanderHoeven every day but Sunday for afternoon tea and then business in his best room, the Voorkammer, or in the landscaped gardens around the house; they were close friends, she maintained. She is a member of the local historical society; doing research for the Capella communities has been one of her passions. Annie H. is still living a short block from the large stone Hervormde kerk in Sprang. So, enough for now.

Where can we find out more about a name like 'oats neck,' for which we have been teased ever since we were children in both the U.S. and Canada?!! Help!

name: Hoogenboezem

A "boezem" is a canal into which excess water was and is pumped, sometimes the boezem is higher than the land from which the water is pumped: hence: Hoogeboezem


Interesting comment as to the term 'boezem' in the Dutch language, and a secondary or tertiary use of the term. It may well explain the meaning of the term and the dwelling place of the family which took the name, Hoogeboezem in the Netherlands. The first meaning in my Cassell's Dutch Dictionary for 'boezem,' however, is

"bosom, breast,"

second meaning, "auricle [of the heart],"

third meaning, "bay [of the sea],"

fourth meaning, "reservoir [of a polder]."

The meaning given for 'hoogeboezem by Ange Jonker in 2013, 'a canal into which excess water was and is pumped, somethimes the boezem is higher than the land from which the water is pumped: hence: Hoogeboezem," is not in this dictionary,

but I will not debate that it is an authentic use of the term 'hoogeboezem.'

My point, however, is that names like 'hoogeboezem' and 'haverhals' do NOT have the same CONNOTATIONS among the general population of Dutch speakers or their descendants in other lands, not familiar with canals or Flemish-Belgian work horses in the Branbants, and so for my friend, H.A., a Frisian, and my self, A.H., having grown up among the descendants of early settlers in the Dutch kolonie of Sioux County, Iowa, it was

NO HONOUR to be called 'oats neck,' the literal translation into English of our surname, and neither was it an HONOUR for Hielke A. and his classmates to have a primary school teacher with the surname, translated into the child's or children's literalistic understanding of those two terms, 'high bosom,' or in the vulgar, English vernacular, 'high teats/tits.' He would tell us this story to make us chuckle, as he told us the first names of three of his sisters and other strange Dutch and Frisian surnames.

One thing I aver, and that is that the Dutch and Frisians had a much greater sense of humour than many of their religious and pietistic descendants wish to admit, when their progenitors named themselves such things as 'born-naked,' and aren't we all? and 'nut tree,' or 'testicle' or 'testicle way' or 'Klootwijk,' etc. Wouldn't you agree?

When I greet my friend, who has the fortune of bearing the name 'Kloot,' and the good fortune of having several sons, now bearing the surname, with pride and honour, I do not ponder or chuckle concerning the nature or status or size of his, said testicle, or that of the ancestor who gave himself or was given the surname Kloot. Only when and if we were joshing, and then only in jest, would we dare call each other an 'ouwe klootzaak,' but only doing that in the right circumstances and when we have had 'one too many!'

Thanks for sharing your insights and knowledge as to our 'not always happy to have received surnames.' Our son now goes by his mother's surname, Drumm, using the Haverhals moniker as his third given name, and only on official documents. I had wanted to do that in my twenties, also, using my mother's surname instead, Kooi, which very few Germanic language people in North America knew meant a 'cage.'

i also have :

i also have :
-Klootwijk (testicle distict)
-Verduin (faraway dune)
-Bloothoofd (naked head)
-Toet (what my mom used to call my face when i was little or just the 'toot' sound)
-van den/der/de berg (of the mountain)

and i just have one first name i wanted to share(in combination with their surname it`s the funniest thing ever)
Dik Kok( fat cook) but it`s pronounced literally like 'dick cock'