Friday, April 13, 2007

Ironmongers and Discotheques

Dear Berlitz,

I do not wish to sound horridly ungrateful (thanks to the glossary at the back of your book, I discovered that the refreshing-looking drink I was about to buy, was actually a can of olive oil), however, I really think it time you updated your Dutch phrase book. Something more relevant to the post-industrial revolution would be most helpful.

For example, I don’t really think that being able to ask "Waar is de dichtstbijzijnde de ijzerhandel?" (Where is the nearest ironmonger's?) would be terribly useful to the average tourist, nor the phrase "Ik wil graag een vulpotlood kopen?" (I'd like to buy a mechanical pencil). How many people come to Holland, and suddenly find themselves in urgent need of any pencil, much less a mechanical one? Equally redundant, I think, are the phrases for obtaining furriers, wigs, kerosene, and discotheques.

While you are updating your phrase-book, you may wish to have another look at the phonetic English versions of the Dutch phrases. I have pronounced the words exactly as prescribed, yet the natives, far from looking impressed at my ability to ask for ironmongers and mechanical pencils, instead look bewildered.

Thanks for nothing, you bastards.

A Disgruntled Customer

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