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)
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.
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)
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.
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.