I like to think I am truly bilingual. Most of the time I don’t know what language I think in, every now and then I catch myself messing up two languages in my own head, and pretty often, I can only think of a word in one language when I need it in the other. It’s not even that the languages are that similar, but sometimes they just mess up when I’m trying to form a zin, I mean, sentence. I’ve been told it’s a by product of being bilingual. Funny fact about me: I have a minor in bilingual studies, because I accidentally followed all the required linguistic and psychology courses. A small part of my level of English is due to the influence it has (had) in Dutch language. Movies, series, and games are all in English, and even English grammar has seeped into Dutch.
Let me explain. The rule of thumb for writing words in Dutch is to combine words until it changes the meaning of what you’re trying to express. ‘Car insurance company’ does not change meaning when written together, and so autoverzekeringsmaatschappij is one word. Because people are so used to English, and probably because of an anxiety to create ‘new’ words, and the desire to go for a ‘safe spelling’, a lot of words that are supposed to be written as one, are more and more being written apart. On a side note (or, sidenote, as the Dutch would put it), I really like the creative energy that is involved in Dutch; you can create combinations of words that have never been used before in that combination, but are totally legitimate, even when the Google spell checker (spellchecker) tells you otherwise.
In short, because people are alarmed by the Google spell checker, that doesn’t allow for Dutch creativity after all, or simply because they don’t know the rules, they have been changing the meaning of sentences, leading to hilarious (but unfortunately not translatable) results. Think of it as a form of the Oxford comma. The best part about this, and the reason for telling you, is that the hilarity goes on when you apply Dutch reasoning to English signs. I see so many signs everywhere that could mean something entirely normal, but at the same time something really funny. At times, it’s just confusing. Let me give you two quick examples:
- A book store near my house was advertising a ‘Giant book sale’. I checked it out, but to my disappointment, all the books were a regular size.
- A store in Kansas City had a sign out: ‘Watch battery replacements’. We decided to go see the soccer match instead.
Your turn: what is the best weird interpretation you can think of?