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Europe / Belgians

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168762.  Sun Apr 22, 2007 11:52 am Reply with quote

I quite fancy this question:

What's the best way to check for Belgians?

The way they speak French in Belgium (and the Congo) is slightly different from French French, most notably in that they say "septante" instead of "soixante-dix" for 70, and "nonante" instead "quatre-vingt-dix" for 90. I'm told that this was used as a shibboleth test by the Germans in the 1st WW to detect spies posing as neutral Belgians. I can't find any confirmation of this, though - has anyone heard of it?

The reason I like it is that it's quite a funny question in itself, and it could lead us into

1) shibboleths
2) famous Belgians
3) the Belgae living in southern England

so I would think there's scope if the spy story stacks up.

168774.  Sun Apr 22, 2007 1:02 pm Reply with quote

Sadly, Google returns no matches for "belgian shibboleth", so I'm at a dead end.

168780.  Sun Apr 22, 2007 1:43 pm Reply with quote

77 was apparently used as a shibboleth in Sweden, as the word (sjuttiosju) was so difficult to say.


Not found anything for septante, but it's definitely the word used in Belgium and Switzerland. So it would seem possible.

168853.  Sun Apr 22, 2007 5:45 pm Reply with quote

Wasn't there some word, the pronunciation of which was supposed to be a test as to whether you were Bosnian or Serbian during the war in former Yugoslavia? Suze may know this.

There are also names and words that distinguish Catholic from Protestant in Northern Ireland.

169130.  Mon Apr 23, 2007 4:35 pm Reply with quote

Oops sorry, only just saw this one!

I've got a couple of sentences in my notes about the languages of this particular region. The classification of Bosnian (or Bosniak - even the nomenclature is a political issue), Croatian, Serbian and now Montenegrin as four separate languages is largely politically inspired. Most linguists would consider them as dialects of one language - the one that we used to call Serbo-Croat, though the use of that term is decidedly verboten these days.

There are a few differences which are apparent to the layperson though. One of the more obvious is that Bosnian and Croatian often use /h/ where Serbian and Montenegrin use /v/ - the usual example is that the word for "tobacco" is either duhan or duvan.

There are some dialectal differences in vocabulary as well, although I don't know the details.

In more recent time, Bosnian has made a conscious attempt to assert a separate (and Muslim) identity, and has adopted a number of Turkish words in place of German or Russian ones which had been used before.

176689.  Tue May 22, 2007 7:20 am Reply with quote

Catholic missionary Pater Damiaan was voted 'greatest Belgian' ever in a 2005 poll.

He "put leprosy on the map"

Link, with lots more about famous belgians - can't remember if we were going to run with this.

490397.  Tue Jan 27, 2009 11:41 am Reply with quote

As a Belgian, a dutch one though, I can at least confirm the word. However I don't know wether it was used by the germans.

For information on Belgium you can always contact me by pm (I get a mail then), especially on it's history, as that's what I study at university. Mostly ancient history though.

490417.  Tue Jan 27, 2009 12:10 pm Reply with quote

Thanks, Bellerophon. We do sometimes need local expertise, though I don't think there's anything at the moment.

490433.  Tue Jan 27, 2009 12:37 pm Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
Thanks, Bellerophon. We do sometimes need local expertise, though I don't think there's anything at the moment.

No problem just pm me in case you do. I might also be able to help when there are questions about Ancient history, especially the hellinistic period. Just so you know. :)

588022.  Wed Jul 22, 2009 8:44 am Reply with quote

There's quite a famous shibboleth in Frisia, in the Netherlands. In the 16th century the Frisians fought for their independance and it is said that ships whose crew couldn't say "Būter, brea, en griene tsiis; wa dat net sizze kin, is gjin oprjochte Fries" would be plundered. The shibboleth means "Butter, rye bread and green cheese, who cannot say that is not a genuine Frisian"

Except the word for rye bread, brea, the words in the sentence are pretty much the same as in English, since oprjocht could be translated as uprighteous. This is because English and Frisian are from the same family tree, the Anglo-Frisian;

The leader of the Frisians was called Grutte Pier, or Great Pete and it was said that he was exceptionally big. What is said to be his sword, hangs in the Frisian museum in Leeuwarden and is 7 feet long.

823259.  Sun Jun 12, 2011 11:19 am Reply with quote

how about the "schild en vriend" shibboleth?
it was used during the guldensporenslag, when the Flemish were at war with the French. they'd make people say "schild en vriend"; the French couldn't pronounce it, and would say "skilt en friend", which was a dead giveaway, of course. (two years later than the last post, but still something interesting, so i posted it anyway)

823377.  Sun Jun 12, 2011 6:58 pm Reply with quote

In Northern Ireland the Catholic community tended to pronounce "H" wereas the Protetsant community relaxed the "H".

823397.  Sun Jun 12, 2011 9:46 pm Reply with quote

Flash wrote:

What's the best way to check for Belgians?

Stack their boxes with the arrows pointing up and see if they laugh.
All the world except Belgium and Germany have "up" arrows on boxes and crates. Belgium and Germany use arrows pointing to the ground.
To distinguish between Belgians and Germans: Germans do have at least some sense of humour.

823448.  Mon Jun 13, 2011 6:18 am Reply with quote

Belgium and Germany use arrows pointing to the ground.

we do? good to know...

823540.  Mon Jun 13, 2011 12:51 pm Reply with quote

orablu wrote:
Belgium and Germany use arrows pointing to the ground.

we do? good to know...

In 20 years of stage crew work that was one thing we could rely on.


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