Eight Donkey Bridges (yes, we are officially adopting the Dutch term)

In English, word games to help you remember things – like Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain for the colours of the rainbow – are called mnemonics, which is extremely dull. How much more fun the Dutch language is with its ezelsbruggen or donkey bridges. (Although we are told it may orginally stem from German)

Let's be literal about this

Let’s be literal about this

Here’s a few that we’ve collected

1.  ‘t kofschip – merchant ship
Compulsory learning for all primary school pupils, this is a way of remembering  the endings of a regular Dutch verb in the past simple tense.  If the verb root ends in one of the consonants in ‘t kofschip,  the past simple ends in te and the past participle in t. If the verb root ends in any other consonant or a vowel (except silent e), the past simple ends in de and the past participle in d. Now you know.

2. TV Tas – Television bag
The letters stand for the names of the Wadden Islands: Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland, Schiermonnikoog.

Texel from space, thanks to ESA/NLR

Texel on TV, thanks to ESA/NLR

3. Piet Koopt  Hoge Schoenen – Piet buys high shoes.
Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht, Singel – the Amsterdam canal ring in order, except the Singel is nearest the centre.

4. Ding flop bips
Surely the silliest ezelsbrug ever. The letters stand for the countries that entered the Euro in 2002. The adman who thought this one up certainly got it right with flop. And bips which means bum. Ding: Duitsland Ierland Nederland Griekenland. Flop: Finland, Luxemburg, Oostenrijk, Frankrijk Bips: Belgie, Italie, Portugal, Spanje)

Flop or bottom?

Flop or bottom?

This turned into Sms ff bondige clips (Please text concise clips) in 2007 to include Slovenia and Estonia, among others.

5. In het VOORjaar gaat de klok VOORuit. The clock goes forward in spring. The two voors make it easy to remember so Dutch families need never row about it. In theory, that is.

6. Bul gaat met Sofia
From NbN’s private collection this mnemonic device means Bul dates Sofia i.e. Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria. Thanks mum.

7. Nederland, geef acht! In Nood Gul Bijschrijven op 7 nullen en 3 vijven
Brilliant donkey bridge to remember the charity account number NL INGB 0000 0005 55 which replaces the simple 555 number now we’ve got European banking. It says Attention the Netherlands! Give generously to seven zeros and 3 fives. The Dutch version rhymes of course and the first letters… you get the point.

These t-shirts are no help whatsover

These t-shirts are no help whatsoever

8. And for everyone who parks their car in Amsterdam and has to use the new style parking meters which involve punching in your number plate, there is a helpful website which will generate your very own mnemonic so you can remember it: www.kenjekenteken.nl. Only in Dutch but hey, you want to learn the language.

If you know more, preferably ones your mum made up for you, let us know.


8 thoughts on “Eight Donkey Bridges (yes, we are officially adopting the Dutch term)

  1. Sjoerd

    Actually…the new bank account number for 555 is: NL 08 INGB 0000 0005 55

    The writer forgot the 08 so maybe he didn’t understand the ‘donkey bridge’ himself? 😉

  2. Onno de Weerd

    Maak Voort Aardig Meisje, Jan Spuit U Nat, Plons! (Mercurius, Venus, Aarde, Mars, Jupiter, Saturnus, Uranus, Neptunus, Pluto)

  3. Tanja van den Broek

    A very famous one is: Meneer Van Dale Wacht Op Antwoord (mr. Van Dale is awaiting an answer) used to inprint the order in which mathematic calculations should be conducted, as learned to dutch children in school till 1992.

    M=machtsverheffen: exponentiation
    V=vermenigvuldigen: multiply
    D=delen: divide:delen
    W=worteltrekken: to root (?)
    O=optellen: add
    A=aftrekken: subtract

    In 1992, a new method of calculation was introduced, changing the order of the processes. It teaches to work from te left to the right, making brackets the most important part you should do first, followed bij taking the root and exponentiation, and then the rest. Also a new mnemonic is taught, however, it’s hardly as famous as the old one:

    Hoe Moeten Wij Van De Onvoldoendes Afkomen
    (How do we get rid of bad grades)
    H=haakjes: brackets

  4. Tanja van den Broek

    Another one, not so famous but very effective: DROL (dung, shit)
    To help remember the way most skews ans lids turn.
    It says Dicht naar Rechts, Open naar Links , i.e. closed to the right and open to the left.

  5. anoniempje

    another one my mom used alot is : wouden zijn wilde(n) bossen. Alot of people use the word “wouden” (wanted) but traditionwise you say “wilden. Wouden is a word for forests. So wouden zijn wilde bossen says that when you say: wij wouden gister naar het strand -> wij wilden gister naar het strand. want: wouden zijn wilde bossen!

  6. Mijntje

    I know a few ezelsbruggetjes to add.

    – To ease the nervousness when starting my first driving lesson, a friend helped me to remember the order of pedals from left to right in the (manual (transmission)) car:
    KRoeG: Koppeling, Rem, Gas
    As young girls we found this particularly funny as one of the first rules learned at the driving school obviously was to never drink & drive, and “kroeg” means bar/pub.

    – Mijn Moeder Lust Jam (My Mother Likes Jam (marmalade))
    Mattheus, Marcus, Lucas, Johannes: de vier evangelisten uit het Nieuwe Testament. (the 4 Evangelists in the Bible’s New Testament)

  7. Bettine

    I knew only the first two donkey bridges! I have to remember the most simple one, VOORjaar klok VOORuit, because I always forget that! 🙂


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