donderdag 3 september 2020

Y not

Wednesday I did some sightseeing in Amsterdam with two young girls who had just come from London, and of course the highlight of the day was a visit to MacDonald's. There are about five of them around the boring Dam square with the royal palace, the national monument and the very old New Church, where nowadays modern exhibitions and events are held. 

Luckily the girls knew how to order. I had no idea what they were doing, since I never had macdonaldsology in my curriculum. It was only when I put my bank card into the machine and pushed the OK button that I realized that I could have taken a six years academic course on the subject for that money. I remember a few years ago I managed to order a meal at MacDonald's all by myself, it was called a happy meal and didn't seem too complicated considering my age, but after the meal I wondered why there was a plastic toy at the bottom of the package. 

In this MacDonald's near the Dam I noticed that I didn't see or hear much Dutch around me, also my lovely company giggled on in English. So I was happy to see a few Dutch words on a piece of paper stuck to the gent's room door: "De badkamer is kapot". Broken. Unfortunately the door was locked, I wouldn't expect a bath or shower (badkamer) in the gents' toilet (bathroom) of MacDonald's. It was obvious that this Dutch notice wasn't written by a Dutch native speaker. It made me smile. I made a picture and put it on Facebook. This lead to a conversation with my cousin Liz in Australia. At some point she said: "Ridiculous to not be able to go to the toilet at Maccas". She explained: "We call Macdonalds Maccas in Australia. Rockingham is Rocko or Rocky City. Fremantle is Freo. We are a strange lot." I replied: "Don't tell me that next they'll call Elizabeth Liz."

This brought us to a new subject - namely: nicknames, names of endearment or the abbreviation of names - when my cousin Elizabeth or Liz replied : "Yep, they do. Or Betty, Lisa, Elly, Elsie, Beth. The queen got called Lillibet when she was young. But please don't call me Lillibet. Oooh, no way. My mum wanted me to remain Elizabeth, but my brothers called me Liz and it stuck. My dad used to call me Liske."

"Do the Dutch shorten names?", she asked. Well, I have some opinions on that matter, so I wrote a long reply. 

Do the Dutch shorten names? Some do, others don't. There are individual and regional differences. Many (Dutch) names are already abbreviations, like the Dutch name Ria obviously comes from Maria, Kees or Cees (and also Nelis) from Cornelis, Jaap, Japie, Jappie (and also Kobus) from Jacobus, like Jim or Jack from James.

Personally I seldom mention someone by abbreviation or nickname. For me, someone's name or the name that someone introduces himself with is in fact holy. I am not only called Ytzen, I am Ytzen. As if I could never have had an other name. It also connects me to pake Ytzen, my grandfather, with whom I've always felt a strong connection. Though sometimes I jokingly say that I'm the leader of a Buddhist sect, the so called Yt Zen branche.

I always 'fight' to get my name in full and not just the initial Y. (Why? Y's not my name.) On forms, mail, bank cards and so on. This wasn't a problem here until a few decades ago. In the phonebook, bank account and cards my name was always written in full. But years ago they started to use initials practically mandatory. As if it's more polite to cut off someones name short. For me, using ones name correctly is a token of respect. Right now there isn't any Dutch bank anymore that accepts my name in full. It's one of the reasons that I stick to my German bank. In Germany it's quite normal that they write your name the way you are actually named and how you want it to be. Since I always fill in my name in full, in the Netherlands my name for example at my business bank card is written as Y.T.Z.E.N. Lont, since the system only accepts initials.

My parents also had the opinion that you have one name and that's how you are named. So no difference between "doopnaam" (baptism name) and "roepnaam" (call name). So Jikke, Dirk and myself, Ytzen, each have only one name, no second or middle name and no different names at baptism. But after me my parents started compromising, and my younger brother Johan Cornelis (who passed away ten years ago) and sister Feikje Rinske each were blessed with two names. But even then our parents made sure the name was not altered or abbreviated. For example, Johan is not named Johannes, but plainly Johan and that's how he has always been called. He was named after the elder (oom Kees) and younger (oom Jo) brothers of my father, but my parents switched the order of seniority, because they liked the name Johan and also to prevent that Cornelis as a first name would become Kees. So I apparently inherited my name sickness or name holiness for that matter from my parents. 

Elizabeth or Liz, I like Liske and I understand what your father (my mother's elder brother Symen) felt by that name. As if you, though Australian by birth and carrying the name of the Queen of the Commonwealth, were born in his beloved Fryslân after all.

2 opmerkingen:

  1. I think 2 syllables is about ideal for a given name! I have the feeling that anything longer is definitely going to be abbreviated, starting by your mother when you do something she does not like. But one syllable and it is too short: my name Rob was regularly turned into longer varieties, Like Robbie but up to Robberdebobber.

    My son is an exception to the rule: his name Maxim is still regularly shortened to Max by many people. We did not want to call him Max, so if we want to give a counter-weight to someone else doing so, we refer to him as our Xim.

  2. Well said, Rob, I agree, thanks. Keep defending his name. (Even by joining the enemy in their misdemeanors.)