Antwerp dialect

Even if you stay clear of the Russian gun smugglers in the port, it’s still often very difficult to follow Antwerp dialect, with its Anglicisms (makkadam, “asphalt”), Gallicisms (memmaure, “memory”), games (‘t Chingchangsplein for Sint Jansplein, “St John’s Square”) and surreal inventions (I get halfway through melkkaarenoungdenaar, “lousy haircut”, and then lose track of what it means and how to pronounce it).

Some words turn up over a much wider area (eg kinderkoppen, “children’s heads”, used for the cranial cobbles that make cycling in the rain an uncertain experience), but most expressions are new to me. I liked boeffen, “overeat”, followed remorselessly by boeffer, “professional soldier”, but my favourite was boekwijf, “book woman”. That’s not a lawyer or a philosopher, but a prostitute, with her Napoleonic medical certificate.

Antwerp was once a Spanish port, but I believe the Duke of Alva only got involved in language issues to the extent of removing the tongues of those who disagreed with him.

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