maandag 18 januari 2021

Labbekak de kakkerlak

Oud-werkgeversvoorzitter Hans de Boer (66) is onverwachts overleden. Over de doden niets dan goeds, toch herinner ik hem vooral door één pijnlijke uitspraak, waarvoor hij overigens zijn excuses heeft aangeboden. Zijn suggestie leidde wel tot deze aanwinst (zie foto) in mijn boekenkast. Ik heb het boekje ooit eens als mijn naambordje gebruikt tijdens het bijwonen van een raadsvergadering. Door het harde kaft blijft het makkelijk overeind staan.

The former leader of the Dutch employers organization Hans de Boer passed away suddenly at age 66. Nothing but good about the dead, but I remember him mainly through a painful statement he made in interview, for which he apologized. His suggestion lead to this new book in my book case (see picture: the Dutch children's book Labbekak de kakkerlak, Labbekak the cockroach). I used the booklet once as a name card when I attended a municipal board meeting. Thanks to the hard cover it stands upright easily. 

When I posted the above remarks at Facebook, in Dutch, my Australian cousin commented: "Kakkerlak sounds like a poo word instead of a cockroach." 

I replied, in what I now convert into a language blog: 

Indeed, in both labbekak and kakkerlak sounds the word kak, kaka, poo, though either word has anything to do with that, but it makes the sound so very suitable for negative nicknames. In an interview five years ago the chairman of the employer's organisation called people on welfare "labbekakken", meaning lazy, they could all go to work. It was very hurtful and after a lot of criticism, even from the prime minister, he apologized. In the obituaries now we read and hear that he was a typical Frisian very straightforward and humorous man. Though I wasn't a fan of him, let's leave it to that.

He didn't use the word kakkerlak, but Labbekak de kakkerlak is the funny name of a children's story. I bought the book to sort of play down the nickname, but now I see back the picture of the book (the book itself I've given away some time ago) I remember how hurtful the nickname was.

The comment made me look for the etymology of the word kakkerlak. It has nothing to do with kak, but when used as a nickname the shitty sound may have helped its purpose. The word comes from Caribbean indigenous ("Indian") language as kakalaka or different other forms of that. Both the insect and the word came to Europe by ship. The Spanish brought the same word home as cacarucha, which from its sound became cockroach in English. So kakkerlak and cockroach are both different sounds from the same word. 

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