Friday 22 January 2021

Jan Lul, Jan Modaal and Pietje Precies – just who are these people?

How many Jans? Photo:

The English language has a Hooray Henry and a Johnny come lately but Dutch also hitches – usually pejorative – epithets to otherwise innocuous first names. Some suffer more than others. Here’s a few samples.

Jan Hen: a henpecked man.

Jan Lul: Literally, Jan Dick, also known as Jan met de korte achternaam (Jan with the short last name) for the euphemistically inclined. You are usually made to look like one, i.e. ridiculous.

Jan Doedel: a clumsy person.

Jan Modaal: a person on an average (modal) income, often invoked by politicians and statisticians.

Henk and Ingrid: Geert Wilders’ variation on Jan Modaal, the average family.

Excuus Truus: A token woman.

Tante Truus: a fussy busybody.

Vrolijke Frans: a person without a care in the world.

Gekke Henkie/Gerrit: Daft person. In the case of Gerrit the stupidity is usually denied: Ik ben Gekke Gerrit(je) niet, i.e. you won’t be putting one over me.

Jip en Janneke taal: refers to the Jip en Janneke children’s books by Annie MG Schmidt which are written in simple language. Used pejoratively for too simple language, for instance in an official document although some would say we need more of it.

Pietje Precies: a finicky person, someone who dots his i’s and crosses his t’s.

Piet Snot: a rather sad figure who is always excluded from whatever is going on as in ‘Ik stond er voor Piet Snot bij’.

Joost mag het weten: Literally, ‘Joost would know’.Joost, by a number of retrospective twists and turns, meant the devil. In English you would say ‘God knows’.

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