It’s certainly an undesirable state of affairs when one has known about the existence of a town for at least a year, been aware that correct pronunciation of its name would be necessary for roughly two thirds that time, and yet, even after being based within its area for about the last five months – still being unable to actually say ‘Groningen’.
And not for lack of trying, I’ll have you note.
Stephen Fry once described the guttural Dutch ‘G’ sound as “an outbreak of pneumonia in a frog pond”. You’ve probably spent your life thinking the painter who chopped off his own ear was called ‘Van Go’ or ‘Van Goff’. However, for correctness, you should probably start trying to hack up your oesophagusal tubes every time you say ‘Van Gogh’ instead.
Such is my shame at lack of articulation abilities that, wherever possible, I try to avoid actually referring to Groningen by name. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable however. The worst part is – the more I try to pronounce correctly, apparently the less comprehensible I become.
Lydia: ‘Is this train going to hhCrgroningen?’ (A separate though possibly related issue is the impenetrable logic of the Dutch railway system).
Impatient ticket collector/blunt man/surly teenager: Where?
L: looks awkward ‘… umm ‘hhhughCGHRonigen…?’
PTC/IM/ST: expression caught somewhere between confused and bemused …??
L: Feeling helpless, giving up, not bothering to hide kiwi accent: ‘Uhh Groan-Ing-Ann’?
PTC/IM/ST: “Oh, you mean χroʊ̯nɪŋən”. Laughs.
L: Glowers. Thinks, ‘That’s what I said!’
PTC/IM/ST: Keeps chuckling. Then: “…No, this compartment is going to Leeuwarden. You’ll need to get off at the next stop and run to the other end of the train.”
THIS IS ACTUALLY A THING THAT HAPPENS!
The whole language, really, is just a bit, uh, unprepossessing.
One friend described it as if the Dutch are talking with dishwashing liquid in their mouth. I think it is as close as is humanly possible to sound like an elephant trying to sneeze out a cat as it coughs up hairballs.
Ae kniw thus is rully jast kunda ritch, ayeh… coming from someone whose accent is rife with the dulcet monotones, AWOL vowel sounds and awkward rising inflections made (in)famous by Flight of the Conchords, but the sound of the Dutch language positively makes German sound all cream and violins.
I reconcile myself over my own imperfect elocution expertise with this sentiment.
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