What are these Dutch words I grew up hearing?
January 8, 2010 2:22 PM   Subscribe

Please help me learn more about these Dutch words I heard while growing up.

My grandfather's family moved to the United States from The Netherlands when he was four years old (1922). They settled in the Midwest in a community made up largely of other Dutch immigrants. Dutch was the main language spoken for many years, but as generations passed and others were born, it became more of a rarity. By the time I came around (1980's), only a few words were left and my grandfather had been so far removed from the Dutch language by that time, that he could not recall their true meaning, how they were spelled or if we were even saying/using them correctly.

I'd like to know if there are any Dutch speakers out there who can help me learn more about these words and whether we are using them correctly. Even just the correct spelling would help me at least Google them.

The first word is something I can only take a wild stab at spelling correctly. If something was yucky or if our mom didn't want us to touch something, they'd pull us away and shout, "No! That's baaky!" I've heard this word uttered by other people of Dutch heritage and it's shocking to me whenever I hear my husband's family say it, as I always thought it was something just my family said. I believe it is meant to replace "yucky" or "nasty" and it does sound somewhat similar. It's pronounced with "baa", like in the Baa Baa Black Sheep rhyme, and then with the added "key". I've searched Dutch dictionaries and found nothing similar.

The second word is something I never heard growing up, but my mother recently told me about it. Her mother, whom I didn't get to know very well before she passed on, used to utter a (curse?) word whenever she was frustrated or angry. It was pronounced tut-fudd-duddie. My mother has no idea what it means and wonders if it was a genuine curse or something more innocent.

I'd be very grateful if anyone has any clue or if your family said one of these words too. It's something I always wondered about, but could never find any info on! Thanks in advance!
posted by bristolcat to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think tut-fudd-duddie sounds a little bit like the Dutch potverdomme, at least the pattern does. This translates to something like damn it. Another option would be godverdomme, which means god damn it.

Really don't have a clue about the other one. It sounds (in Dutch) a bit like bakkie, but that's an informal word for cup, like a een bakkie koffie is a cup of coffee, so that makes no sense to me as a curse. :-) Could it be the Dutch word bakkes, which is a non-nice and old-fashioned word for mouth and/or face, as in "shut your mouth" instead of "please be quiet". :-)

Of course, Dutch language has evolved over the past 80 years since your grandfather's family left the Netherlands, so I could be completely wrong... Also, I think it depends from the region that they came from, because in those days most people spoke a local/regional dialect, and not "standard Dutch".
posted by IAr at 4:27 AM on January 9, 2010

The first one could be 'jakkie', which is pronounced slightly different than baakey, but makes sense in the way you describe it. It means something like yucky, blegh.
The second could be 'potverdorie', which means the same as 'potverdomme', but is less harsh.
posted by eau79 at 4:44 AM on January 9, 2010

The second is indeed most likely a variant of "godverdomme". Many variations exist: the more they differ in sound, the less offensive they are (see the list in this Dutch wiki page for some variants).

I'm not sure about the first one. My first guess was that it is some form of "Jakkie Bah!".
posted by swordfishtrombones at 5:22 AM on January 9, 2010

Actually baaky could be a mix of the words "bah" and 'jakkie' as suggested by eau79. We still say to our youngsters in the family when they want to touch something that is filthy "nee, dat is bah".

Tutt-fudd-duddie sounds to me as well as potverdorie but it may also have been godverdorie.
posted by Mrs Mutant at 5:29 AM on January 9, 2010

Agree that baakey is probably a permutation of "jakkie", "bah" or a combination of the two.

For people of your grandmother's generation "godverdomme" (god damn it) would be a word that they would never, ever use. They had several (less taboo) variants that they might use, like "potverdomme", "godverdorie", "potverdikkie" or "godverdikkie". These made-up words have the same rhythm as the original, but since they're not the Bad Word they were considered to be more or less acceptable in polite company. As pointed out above, "tud-fud-duddie" is probably one of those.
posted by rjs at 8:39 AM on January 9, 2010

It seems the comments that went missing in the server hiccup are definitely lost, so I'll try summarize what I posted last night.

Is probably derived from "bah", an exclamation of aversion. "Bah" can be pronounced with a short 'a' as well as with a long 'a'.
The addition of -ky in the end as an anglicization is not farfetched, as English adjectives tend to end in -y.

However, eau79, swordfishtrombones and Mrs Mutant are on to something with "jakkie". Probably "baaky" is a combination of "bah" and "jakkie".

Could be derived from "godverdomme", but is probably derived from "potverdorie".

You mentioned in a disappeared comment that your grandmother was very religious and even the word "crap" was something she never said. In that case she would have never said "godverdomme", but could have said "potverdorie", it's the non-offensive counterpart of "godverdomme".

"Godverdomme" translates to goddammit. It's derived from "Godverdoemd" (God damned) which is short for "God zij verdoemd" (God be damned).
"Potverdorie" is a placeholder word. "God" is replaced with "pot". Pot means a tin or a cooking pot (and is also a derogatory term for a lesbian, but that's beside this discussion). "Verdomme" is replaced with "verdorie", which has no meaning as such. An offensive curse is hereby rendered inoffensive.

For example, it would be considered very rude and unprofessional if you told your boss "Godverdomme, I forgot that important binder", while you could say "Potverdorie, I forgot that important binder!" and no one would take offense.

However, "potverdorie" is not a word people 'invent' themselves to clean up their vocabulary (like deciding to replace "Jesus Christ" with "Meavis Might", while your neighbour replaces it with "Jeebers Fright"), it has evolved into an existing word.

Godverdomme sounds like:
god: as in cod, but with a soft g
ver: as in cover
dom: as in dominion
me: as the middle part of al-ba-tross, but starting with an m

Or listen on Forvo to godverdomme.

Potverdorie sounds like:
pot: as the English word pot
ver: as in cover
dorie: similar to Dorie Greenspan

Or listen on Forvo to potverdorie.
posted by lioness at 9:16 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your answers and thank you, lioness, for repeating what got lost in the server wipe. I appreciate it a lot because you had contributed much to the thread before the blip happened.

Everyone had something significant to contribute to the discussion, so I don't think I'll be marking anything as best answer, since I can't mark them ALL best answer. Thanks again, though - I am delighted to finally find out more about these words after all this time.

Finally, I spoke to my husband last night about this and he said that in his family, it was "hutfuddudie" instead of "tutfuddudie" and I instantly felt terrible because I knew that I had misremembered it and that my family said hutfuddudie, too. Perhaps this rings bells for someone? It still seems pretty close to potverdorie.
posted by bristolcat at 8:59 AM on January 11, 2010

bristolcat, do you know which part of The Netherlands your grandfather's family is from?

There's a soft 'g' and a hard 'g' in Dutch.

Northern Dutch / hard 'g' pronunciation:
‹g› represents [ɣ], a voiced velar fricative
‹ch› represents [χ], a voiceless uvular fricative

Southern Dutch (incl. Belgian/Flemish) / soft 'g' pronunciation:
‹g› represents [ʝ], a voiced palatal fricative
‹ch› represents [ç], voiceless palatal fricative


In short: the hard 'g' is the mainstream 'g' in The Netherlands, the soft 'g' is mainstream in Belgium. Of course there are exceptions: the soft 'g' is also mainstream in the provinces Noord-Brabant and Limburg and part of the provinces of Gelderland and Utrecht.

A soft 'g' is formed with quite a lot of air, so it wouldn't surprise me if it got muddled to an 'h' after 3 generations.

In the Belgian West-Flemish vernacular (Westvlaams) a 'g' is even pronounced as an 'h'. Apparently, in Zeelandic, the Dutch province of Zeeland's vernacular, the pronounciation of 'g' closely resembles 'h'.

I think it's not too farfetched to theorize that "hutfududdie" simply stems from "godverdorie".

Although "potverdorie" is almost a neutral word, "godverdorie" is not as offensive as "godverdomme". You could tell your boss "Godverdorie, I forget that important folder!" without him berating you, but most people would still consider it a tad rude, I assume.
posted by lioness at 9:50 AM on January 12, 2010

Response by poster: My family is from Zalk, or so I am told. It's hard for me to see borders and provinces on Google maps, and I'm far from an expert on European geography, so I will have to look more into this.

Your followup is extremely interesting and I can definitely see how a soft g would eventually turn into an h. The word, "godverdorie," certainly sounds like a reasonable origin. The offensive nature of the word is very interesting to me and I will have to ask my mother more about the context in which my grandma would say it. I'm assuming that it would be like if someone here were to say, "God! I can't believe I forgot those papers!" as opposed to "God damn! I can't believe I forgot those papers!" I know that isn't a direct translation, but it helps me put things in perspective. Shouting out a loud/slangy, "Gawwwwwwwddd!" would probably be more rude than shouting out an innnocent, "Oh no!"

Thanks again!
posted by bristolcat at 1:00 PM on January 12, 2010

Ha, Zalk. Have you ever heard of its most famous inhabitant? Klazien uut Zalk. (No pages about her in English unfortunately). She was a herb woman, who was huge in the 90s. She has made Zalk famous in NL.
posted by eau79 at 12:29 AM on January 16, 2010

Response by poster: Eau79, that's interesting and I'd like to learn more, but I have to ask - what is a herb woman?
posted by bristolcat at 3:18 PM on January 17, 2010

Herb woman is a literal translation of the Dutch word 'kruidenvrouwtje'. Klazien used herbs and plants in folk remedies, and became quite famous as an oddball TV personality.
posted by rjs at 12:40 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

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