On Saturday I made a quick there-and-back-in-a-day trip to the Netherlands, to attend a ceremony in celebration of Humphrey Tonkin’s seventieth birthday. He and I have been friends and then colleagues since we were both teenagers, and I was delighted to be able to contribute to the festschrift we presented to him.
For my lunch at an eetcafe in Rotterdam I ordered one of my favourite Dutch specialities, an uitsmijter ˈœytsmɛitər. Literally a ‘chucker-out’, this is a kind of hot open sandwich with fried eggs. The diphthongs in its name can be a challenge to NNSs of Dutch without phonetic training. You can have uitsmijters either with ham or with cheese, and I chose the kind with melted cheese, met kaas mɛt ˈkaːs. You have to remember not to aspirate the k of kaas. Dutch voiceless plosives are unaspirated. There is a bit of a mystery here, since in all other Germanic languages (as far as I know) the voiceless plosives are aspirated before a stressed vowel, just as in English. So how is it that those of Dutch are not? I have not come across any historical account of why this should be so. Is it the consequence of all those years of Spanish rule of the Low Countries?
(I’m not sure what voiceless plosives are like in Frisian.)