WHO SAYS "A" MUST SAY "B"?
by Hugo Corstius
Word Ways, 1985
Editor's Note: The following appears in Section 90d of Opperlandse taal- & letterkunde (Querido, 1981), and was translated by George Levenbach. This classic logology text is the Dutch equivalent of Borgmann's Language on Vacation.
It is not well-known that a Dutch airline once played a role in the draining of the Noordost-polder (1). The Department of Water Management (2) divided the N.O.P. into quadrants and borrowed form KLM (3) the PH-OEI (4) to fly all day over the imaginary lines in order for the workers on the ground to orient themselves properly. For the pilots this was boring work--espec-ially so for the legendary ex-Russian pilot Smirnoff (5) who detested flying around in little square patterns. He would, in fact, much rather have flown on the Goudkust (6) of South Carolina, or, as he himself would say, "Gdkust en Sth Carolina" because he could not pronounce the diphthong ou.
Flip Gortzak, who in those years was the Financial Genius of KLM at the Eelde airport, the home base of the N.O.P. pilots, told me an amusing story about Smirnoff. F.G., as everyone called him because of his initials, his occupation, and his love of florins and guilders, told Smirnoff that Plesman (7) intended to provide the same alignment service for the work then being carried out on the Amsterdam-Rhine canal near Abcoude (8). Smirnoff reacted to this with the outburst
"Als boven Abcde, F.G., hij KLM N.O.P.-Quadranten laat vliegen, dan ga ik terug naar Mosk" (9)
[If he (Plesman) makes me fly KLM Noordoostpolder quadrants above Abcoude, F.G., I'm going back to Moscow"].
(1) The Noordoostpolder, or Northeast Polder (N.O.P.), is part of the long-range reclamation of the inland Zuyder Zee for agriculture
(2) This is a Dutch government agency charged with the oversight of the canal system
(3) The acronym of the Dutch national airline
(4) The identification letters for a particular plane, no doubt selected because of its homonymy with "phooey"
(5) Smirnoff was a well-known KLM pilot of the 1930s, who helped develop the airline route between the Netherlands and Indonesia. This had some of the glamour of the early Pan-American flying clipper route across the Pacific about the same time, or of the Orient Express
(6) Goudkust means "gold coast, located in South Carolina instead of Florida so that a second OU-word could be used.
(7) Plesman was the director-general of KLM from the 1930s through the 1950s
(8) Abcoude is a Dutch town near the Amsterdam-Rhine canal
(9) In Dutch, this word is Moskou, but Smirnoff still can't pronounce the diphthong OU.
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