Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Defiant Dutchmen

I had heard this before but wasn't sure if it was fact or fiction, but now that I've seen it in the current issue of Mental_Floss Magazine, I know it really happened this way!
When Napoleon seized the Netherlands in 1810, he demanded that all Dutchmen take last names, just as the French had done decades prior. Problem was, the Dutch had lived full and happy lives with single names, so they took absurd surnames in a show of spirited defiance. These included Naaktgeboren (born naked), Spring int Veld (jump in the field), and Piest (pisses). Sadly for their descendants, Napoleon's last-name trend stuck, and all of these remain perfectly normal Dutch names today.
Whenever I have to sign that little credit card receipt at the grocery story I am reminded of how thankful I am that the Dutchman I marred has only a 5-letter last name. I can't imagine how the Van Zwaluwenbergs and the Vlaardingerbroeks of the world handle that. I also have no idea what those names mean, but it might be interesting to find out!

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