Global communications in English

Bits and bobs

Using softening expressions

men-talkingIt’s a good idea to use softening expressions such as ‘I’m afraid’, ‘sorry’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ regularly in your English – more often than you’d use similar expressions in Dutch. If you don’t, you may sound blunt and unfriendly. It’s not a question of ‘je uitsloven’ or ‘overdrijven’– it’s simply the way the game is played in English-speaking culture. Basically, that culture gives priority to minimising hurt or offence (which can lead to the truth being covered up); Dutch culture, by contrast, tends to give priority to maximising truth (which can lead to people being hurt or offended). They’re just two different approaches to managing social interaction. It’s useful at least to be able to recognise the difference!

Committee or commission?

European CommissionDutch commissie is sometimes committee in English and sometimes commission. What’s the difference? A committee is a small group of people brought together to discuss a particular topic at any level (e.g., the audit committee, the budget committee). A commission, however, is a body of people officially authorised to do government business or conduct an official inquiry (e.g., the Trade Commission, the Forestry Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the European Commission).



Easter days

Chocolate eggsWhat are the special days at Easter time called in English? The first day, i.e. Witte Donderdag in Dutch, is called Maundy Thursday. Maundy comes from French mandé and refers to the new commandment that Jesus gave the disciples after washing their feet at the Last Supper. It was once the custom for kings and queens to wash the feet of the poor on this day (interestingly, it was William of Orange who was the first to stop doing this!). On Maundy Thursday in Britain, the Queen gives alms (Dutch aalmoezen) to old people at a special ceremony. The day after Maundy Thursday is Good Friday. Sunday is called Easter Sunday (or Easter Day), and the day after, Easter Monday.

Wishing you a Happy Easter!


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