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"I’m Loving it:"

Pidgins Taking Over

If there is one thing the Dutch have in common with the British, it is a knack for forcing their culture and language upon others through colonization. Who would have thought that such small countries could have such a Global impact on foreign languages! As a result, both English-based and Dutch-based pidgins have occurred throughout the world.

According to the OED, a pidgin is “A grammatically simplified form of a language, typically English, Dutch, or Portuguese, some elements of which are taken from local languages, used for communication between people not sharing a common language.” It seems to me though that there is a striking difference between English pidgins and Dutch pidgins, which is precisely this: whereas Dutch-based pidgin phrases enhance our understanding of the pidgin, English-based pidgin phrases merely confuse our understanding of the language.

For instance, let’s take a closer look at Afrikaans. According to the International Institute Center for World Languages, “Some scholars claim that Afrikaans was formed as a pidgin, creating a means of communication between the Dutch landowners and the African slaves.” When we take a closer look at this Dutch-based pidgin, we see that African words which were created through pidginization can be said to make more sense than their Dutch cognates:

Dutch Afrikaans
Chirurg Snijdokter
Kruiswoordpuzzel Blokkiesraaisel
Lucifers Vuurhoutje

In this simplified form of the language, a more practical approach towards new vocabulary has occurred. Likewise, it is quite easy for Dutch speakers to understand this pidgin. But the relationship between Dutch and Afrikaans is a two way street: Not only has Dutch influenced Afrikaans, Afrikaans has likewise influenced the Dutch language. The Dutch have incorporated the African way of phrasing things as they come up with non-existing African words, for instance ‘stront-in-die-broekie’ for diarrhea and ‘pletterpet’ for safety helmet. As such, the Dutch language has incorporated pidgins into the language due to a playful and appreciative attitude towards them.

English-based pidgins, in contrast, have a tendency to confuse the native English speaking community. In for instance Tinglish, the Thai version of English, the simplified use of English is above all confusing:
English Tinglish
Take a bath Take a shower
Does your food taste spicy? Are you spicy?
Do you feel bored? Are you boring?

Even though it would be unlikely to incorporate features of a pidgin which creates confusion, there are still some features of English-based pidgins in the English language which, perhaps unknowingly, are used by the majority of Britain. Let’s take for instance the famous McDonalds slogan ‘I'm loving it.’ The average native speaker of English would simply say ‘I love it’, so where does the continuous form come from? The answer lies in American Indian Pidgin English, as David Crystal claims:

“A typical Indian use of the present tense would be with
verbs that I don’t use the continuous form for. [...]
So I would say ‘I know’, ‘I think about it’, ‘I remember
this’, but in Indian English you will hear ‘I am knowing,
I am thinking about it, I am remembering what you
are saying’. This is not a traditional British or American
usage, but it is dominant in India. Now because there is so
much movement around the globe, now you hear it a lot of
the time in Britain as well.”

As increasing globalization leads to more language contact, this type of incorporation of a pidgin might be the start of a trend where pidgins take over the English language. If this turns out to be true, general English as we know it today will become a mixture of all types of Englishes around the world. The same could happen to the Dutch language of course, but perhaps to a lesser extent as there are less Dutch-based pidgins than English-based pidgins. But even though language purists will do anything and everything to make sure that this will never happen, I personally would like to see more people use fun Dutch-based pidgin words such as 'verkleurmannetje' (kameleon) and 'holrol' (wc-papier) more often. In my opinion, the more we play with language, the more we can appreciate language.

by Jolijn Bronneberg

Works Cited