Thursday, October 29, 2009

You want persnickety?

This article illustrates a particularly persistence instance of persnicketiness that perseveres in the polders. It's called "The Hague" in English--calling it just "Hague" sounds kind of funny, to me--and in Dutch it's Den Haag. But then, why is the city of 's-Hertogenbosch frequently referred to as "Den Bosch", even in official correspondence? I should know--in my dealings with the immigration office, which is in 's-Hertogenbosch, the return addresses for many of the forms says "Den Bosch".

For most people the two names are the same, and I've gotten to the point, thanks to the many announcements by the train stations, where I really don't notice what name they use any more. I will confess to being very confused the first few times, in part because a name like 's-Hertogenbosch looks intimidatingly scary to hear, much less pronounce, to a noob of the Dutch language; but also because--well, where does the "Den" part of "Den Bosch" come from?

So we can assume that, in the past, the area around 's-Hertogenbosch was a place where nobles hunted. Which begs the question of why it's called "De (Hoge) Veluwe" (a park in the middle of Holland that was a favorite hunting ground of nobles, and is still used for hunting today) rather than "Den Veluwe". Maybe it's because there aren't any nobles around any more--or rather, there are, but they're just not noble any more (my boyfriend can trace his ancestors back 400 years; me, it stops with my grandparents). Or maybe, now that "commoners" can hunt there, it's not worthy of the definite article.

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