Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cryptic colour

Update: May 2, 2009. This episode was written and posted online in all ignorance of the tragic drama at Apeldoorn taking place at the same time. Dutch driver Karst Tates ploughed his car through the crowds in an attempt to attack the Dutch royal party, killing four people and injuring three times as many. To date the death toll, which now includes Tates himself, is seven people. I can't ignore what happened, but won't be deleting my post as it reflects the innocent fun Dutch people were used to having on Queens Day. Many of us in the Netherlands fear this innocence is gone for good.

Original post: April 30, 2009. Don’t tell me a Dutchman doesn’t know how to have a good time. It’s just not true, no mimsy doubt about that. April 30th is Queens Day in the Netherlands, a day off work and a national excuse for having a good time on a scale possibly unnerving to those from less Dutch-courageous countries. Or unnerving to those whose taste doesn’t run to an overriding passion for orange, the heraldic colour of the Dutch royals (House of Oranje-Nassau, which has its origins in the Principality of Orange) (which has its remains in modern-day Orange, a place in the south of France about 20 km north of Avignon and on average the warmest town around, temperature-wise).

You’re not wild about this hot colour? Then you’re done for when the heat of orange fever hits the Netherlands. You’ll be familiar with the sight at international football events: the not so huddled masses of the Dutch faction, oozing orange in a wildly creative assortment of silly hats and costumes. And on Koninginnedag too, all that wonderful silliness comes out of the orangery again, to be worn with pride and more often than not accompanied by the battle cry “Oranje boven!” (orange above) and a noisy hup-hup-Hollander polonaise from one pub to the next.

It ain’t new, I tell you. Jolly Hollanders have been hollering and rollicking throughout human history. They’re certainly not averse to a spot of hedonism, as droolingly described by this NY Times report from 1890 about a Holland Society banquet – addressed by Theodore Roosevelt, no less (you can guess where his family came from).

Actually, I’m glad that Dutch girls (and boys) only want to have fun because Queens Day really is. Fun. And divinely hedonistic too, though don’t blame me for your hangover tomorrow. It’s certainly not a day to be spent inside, posting a blog. Hence I’m outta here. I’m putting on my plastic orange top hat and I'm off to my village’s free market to see what treasures I can snap up from someone else’s trove, um, leftover junk.

But before I go, let me give you something to mull about at least. Did you know that orange is one of only two words in the English language that are impossible to rhyme perfectly (the other one is silver). It has half-rhymes, such as hinge, lozenge, syringe, flange and Stonehenge, but no true rhymes. Who cares, besides cryptic crossword fans? If you can’t find a perfect match, contrive one, the way composers Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel did in "Oranges Poranges", sung by Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes) on the show H.R. Pufnstuf. Enjoy this triple (Dutch) treat and see you next week!


  1. The trick is to compose lyrics strategically so that you aren't faced with non-rhymability. One needs to have a certain understanding with one's muse.

  2. A strategic understanding with one's Muse will certainly do the trick. Failing that, how's about enjambment? e.g. Willard Espy's poem, "The Unrhymable Word: Orange"

    The four eng-
    Wore orange

    Or perchances, Tom Lehrer's more strained attempt (relies on the New York-New Jersey accent's way of pronouncing orange as "ar-ange"):

    Eating an orange
    While making love
    Makes for bizarre enj-
    oyment thereof.

  3. there's the prodigal son, who spent his inheritance

    on foreign jades and orange-aid,
    and ended in a in foreign jail,
    from drinking too much orange ale.