“Cancer sufferer” and other strange Dutch insults
“There are two kinds of people I can’t stand in this world. People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures, and the Dutch.” – Nigel Powers in Goldmember
Holland, the Netherlands (whatever it’s called these days) is famous for lots of things, notably windmills, marijuana, dykes and prostitutes (and sometimes at the same time). This is a narrow view of the Netherlands and few people realise that the country has far more than just this to offer. For example, the Dutch language is absolutely hilarious. It is an absolute gold mine of funny words, although when pronounced correctly many sound like the speaker is choking to death violently. In fact many tourist guide books recommend wearing a raincoat or at least having an umbrella ready whenever speaking to a Dutch person (citation needed). Many Dutch people are aware of this phlegmy aspect of their language, and some of them in Belgium even named their own dialect after this characteristic.
“You just think Dutch sounds funny because you are an ignorant Australian” I hear you say. “Sure many of the words sound funny in English (groening, dyke, vaart, hoe) but these are just everyday words that only sound funny to you”. While I don’t disagree with the sentiment there, I will now demonstrate why Dutch is such a funny language by focusing on some Dutch insults.
This word is supposedly the Dutch equivalent of “fuck”. Kanker is a very versatile word that can be used in a variety of different forms and added to other words to make them even better. Like its English equivalent, kanker can be used as an outburst when you stub your toe, as a way of insulting somebody’s mother or even as an expression of admiration.
Oh, and kanker also translates into “cancer”, which is a very strange thing to say to someone.
As I said above, kanker can be added to other words to form exciting new combinations. Kankerlijer is one prime example of the Dutch peoples’ misguided attempts at forming insults. This translates into “cancer sufferer” which clearly demonstrates that the Dutch have no idea what an insult is.
“Cancer sufferer” sounds more like an observation than an insult and I have no idea how anybody could consider it to be one. Imagine saying to someone: “Hey you’re such a cancer sufferer”, they would probably be more confused than insulted. There are really only two possible responses to this statement:
- “Uhh, no I don’t have cancer but thanks for caring about my wellbeing”, or
- “Yes I do have cancer, thanks for telling me what I already knew”
Although it may sound like an innocent (but strange) thing to say to somebody, kankerlijer is actually one of the strongest insults in Dutch. I learned this from a drunk Dutch guy who thought it was hilarious to hear foreigners mispronounce rude words. I can verify that kankerlijer is insulting, as I have received a few strange looks when saying it in public in Belgium and the Netherlands. Anybody who has read my previous posts will probably realise that I don’t have a very good sense of boundaries.
Another example of the Dutch formula of kanker + other word = swear word is kankerlekker. While this isn’t really an insult, it’s still not something that should be said in polite company. I had to include it in this list because of the sheer absurdity of the term. “Lekker” is a Dutch word meaning “tasty” and adding that to the word “cancer” just seems nonsensical. I can imagine eating dinner at a friend’s house, and after eating the meal that they had cooked for me, telling them: “That was great, it tasted like cancer”, I don’t think my imaginary friend would speak to me again.
Another one of these baffling kanker words that the Dutch seem to love is kankerhoer. This word means exactly what is sounds like: “cancer whore”, which is really not a very nice thing to say to somebody. I have no idea what possessed somebody to add those two words together and use it to insult another person. What are the whores like in Holland to earn a reputation for something like this?
Dutch people are very inventive when it comes to creating insults, especially when it comes to adding words to kanker. Kankeraap is a good one which translates into “cancer monkey”. I actually really like this one, I imagine it would be a great trump card for winning any argument. Calling somebody a “cancer monkey” in the middle of an argument would surely cause the opponent to realise that they are
speaking to a crazy person and would most likely end the argument immediately, fearing for their own safety.
The Dutch seem to love using monkeys as insults almost as much as they love diseases. Kutaap apparently means “cunt monkey” which has such a lovely ring to it. Dropping a c bomb, is pretty much the strongest word to use in English, but somehow following it up with “monkey” just makes it sound adorable.
Before you go ahead and accuse the Dutch for having a strange obsession with cancer, it is important to realise that not all of their insults are related to that condition. While kanker does seem to form the basis of most of their insults, they do branch out occasionally into other diseases. Words such as, tering (tuberculosis), klere (cholera) and tyfus (typhoid) can also be added to words to form interesting new insults. To me, these words have an added level of humour since I had no idea that these diseases still existed, at least not in a developed country like the Netherlands. Calling somebody an old-timey disease just sounds strange, it would be like saying to somebody in English “I hope you catch the black death”.
I don’t want to laugh at the Dutch too much as I am aware that English insults probably seem strange to foreigners too, especially since everything in English seems to revolve around sex. However, not wanting to feel left out, the Dutch do have a few sex-related insults of their own, although sometimes they just can’t resist the urge to throw a disease in there now and then.
Teringeikel is an interesting one. Tering, as we learned just now, means tuberculosis and eikel means “acorn”, however this does not convey the real meaning of the term. In this context the acorn in question is actually the head of a man’s penis. Putting these two words together sounds like an interesting combination. Calling somebody a teringeikel, sounds like you are saying “I hope you get
tuberculosis on the head of your penis” which is both nonsensical and probably impossible. Apparently this word roughly translates into “dickhead” in English which makes more sense but I still prefer “tuberculosis dick” as an insult.
Klootzak is a great insult that we need to introduce into English right away! Klootzak translates into ball sack or scrotum which is just hilarious. Telling somebody that they are “such a scrotum” will certainly make the person wonder what they had done for such a connection to be made between them as a person and their testicles.
Pisvlek and trekvlek
Before I finish, I would like to mention a couple more words that are definitely worth noting. Pisvlek is a great little word that means “piss stain”. I think this is a great way of putting somebody down as it really emphasises your opponent’s worthlessness in your eyes. “You’re nothing to me, you little piss stain”.
In the same vein, there is trekvlek, which I’m sure is a very useful word to have in your Dutch vocabulary. Similar to pisvlek, trekvlek apparently means “cum stain” which I’m sure is a really wonderful thing to call to somebody.
Hopefully you have learned a lot from this article. If you are ever planning on visiting the Netherlands (or even Belgium) then maybe you can try to impress some locals by calling them some of these weird and wonderful insults, you’ll be sure to fit right in. And if you put what you have learned here to good use, who knows, you might even make some new friends?