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.




the translation onion crier is wrong it comes from kruier meening porter

Zondervan does not mean without surname but without (zonder) from (van) as a lot of Dutch people took surnames starting with van (like van Dyke) some did not want that and decided to have one without (zonder)