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60874.  Sun Mar 19, 2006 4:11 pm Reply with quote

Question: Who stuck what in a dyke to save Holland?
Forfeit: Little boy, finger.
Answer: Arie Evegroen and The Two Brothers.

(or: Q: What were two brothers doing stuck in a dyke in 1953?)

Notes: The Great North Sea Flood of January 1953 cost over 2,500 lives in the Netherlands and the UK , but it could have been much worse.

On the night of 31January, dykes were not strong enough to resist the spring tide and the storm, and 70,000 people had to be evacuated as almost 10% of Dutch farmland was submerged, killing 1,835 people.

On the the morning of Feb 1st, a single dyke along the edge of the river Hollandse IJssel was all that protected a further 3 million people in Northern Holland from the floodwater. One section was not made of stone, and although volunteers worked through the night to reinforce it, the water was getting through.

At 5:30 am, the dyke burst, but J. C. Vogelaar, the quick-thinking mayor of Niewerkerk, ordered Arie Evegroen, the owner of the river ship de Twee Gebroeders (The Two Brothers), to ram it into the breach and plug the hole. He did, and it worked.

As a direct result of this storm, the UK looked into building the Thames Barrier.

Dutch legend has it that there was once a small boy who upon passing a dyke on his way to school noticed a slight leak as the sea trickled in through a small hole. Knowing that he would be in trouble if he were to be late for school, the boy pocked his finger into the hole and so stemmed the flow of water. Some time later a passerby saw him and went to get help. This came in the form of other men who were able to effect repairs on the dyke and seal up the leak.

The story was penned by the American Mary Mapes Dodge in Hans Brinker, (or the Silver Skates) in 1865. It's apparently not well known in the Netherlands and has probably been imported there by American tourists.

The word 'dyke' comes from Middle Dutch dijk, meaning dam. Its modern meaning of lesbian comes from "bulldyker - to engage in lesbian activities" which is attested from 1921. A source from 1896 lists dyke as slang for "the vulva."

Memorial pictures:

60957.  Mon Mar 20, 2006 7:31 am Reply with quote

Not sure if it adds anything, but here’s my Mythcon on dyke-boy:

<<THE MYTH: In the town of Alkmaar, in Holland, there is a museum devoted to the memory of Hans Brinker, the boy who put his finger in a hole in a dyke, thus preventing a devastating flood. What a hero! What a finger!

THE "TRUTH": Despite the museum, popular with tourists, and a memorial statue to the Little Dutch Boy in the village of Spaarndam west of Amsterdam, it seems that this story is little-known in Holland itself. In 1865 (or 1873) Mary Mapes (or Mapers) Dodge (or Dodges) published in the USA her children's novel "Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates," and it appears to be from this bestseller that the legend arose. Could it be that this story is so widespread in English-speaking countries simply because it affords such rich opportunities in our tongue for vulgar punning?

SOURCES: Readers' letters, including one from an official of the Nederlands Centrum voor Volkscultuur, in the Daily Mail (7 September and 22 September 1998).

DISCLAIMER: Common sense suggests that it would take rather more than a single juvenile digit to plug a broken dyke, but it's not clear whether the Little Hans tale created a folk myth, or reflected one. If you can fill a gap in our knowledge, then don't hang about - get your finger out, and write to FT.>>


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