It Was Quite Nice, Actually

I tried to learn Dutch, I really did. To learn a language beyond ordering coffee requires at least one of the following:

a) Academic capability
b) Total immersion
c) The money/sex incentive

I have none of these. I have been following Brenno de Winter’s language podcasts for some time, but things haven’t been the same since he split up with Laura.

I accepted defeat on my last trip to the Netherlands, when a waiter pretended not to understand my order of Uitsmijter. “Uitsmijter? Uitsmijter? Oh, you mean UITSMIJTER?” The difference in pronunciation was ‘Oots’ versus ‘Outs’. Pretty close, huh? But then, the Dutch are threatened by English people trying to speak their language. It’s their secret code.

So, I can order coffee in French, German & Dutch, and that’s about it. With every passing year it becomes less likely that I will ever yield a powerful command of an additional language. That is, of course, until Russian or Mandarin becomes mandatory when we’re all slaves to the machine.

I suppose it’s lucky that I love English. I love how it sounds and I love how it looks. I hate to see it abused, which is why when I hear someone say “It was quite nice, actually”, I want to rip the head off something. If you say something was “quite nice, actually” (or indeed “actually quite nice”) you are demonstrating that you have no imagination AT ALL. Faced with a choice of thousands of adjectives, some close synonyms, some uniquely expressive, you have opted for ‘nice’. But not even fully ‘nice’, only QUITE nice. QUITE NICE, ACTUALLY. Say it in front of me and prepare to die.


15 Responses to It Was Quite Nice, Actually

  1. mieke says:

    take comfort in the knowledge that someone once told me that no one speaks dutch anymore except around the dinner table and that according to others it is one of the hardest languages to learn ever.

    if that’s not comfort enough, the dutch will be dead by drowning soon anyway.

    i have no idea how people measure how hard it is to learn something btw, but since my english is better than my dutch i’m pretty sure they’re right.

    that said: i always thought your dutch was pretty okay.

  2. Nas says:

    haven’t I said “quite nice, actually” around you like a zillion times??
    Should I assume I’m still alive because of the money/sex incentive??

  3. recoder says:

    Yeah, I’ve grown accustomed to your face. Truth be told, I think most people say quite nice actually a lot. It’s the default small talk description of the innocent thing you did that you’re telling a stranger about.

  4. alison says:

    I say ‘quite nice, actually’ all the time, you typo-ridden sod, and there’s NOTHING WRONG WITH IT.

  5. recoder says:

    I know, I know, I just hadn’t written anything hateful, smug, superior and misanthropic for AGES and you need to work these muscles or they shrink and die.

  6. aworldofmeh says:

    maybe you could grow unaccustomed to my face.

  7. recoder says:

    but it’s only just been exfoliated…

  8. McKinley says:

    I call it “Stepford wife” talk. I do it whenever I want to fit in.

  9. Hi,

    I really really wonder if you have been listening to the latest episodes at all. As far as I can tell I did make some changes in the concept, it isn’t directed at Laura no more. The latter one is really a misconception. So the reference to Jimmy Savile is funny, but something I don’t really recognize.

    What happened is that after 200+ e-mails I decided to continue, changing the name is stupid and running away from your past. That’s all I just felt like helping the 33,000+ listeners who value the podcast.



  10. Amardeep says:

    Yeah Richard. Give the brother a break!

  11. recoder says:

    I’ve removed the Jimmy Savile remark, it was unkind and I’m a massive prick (which the 20 people who read this already know from painful experience)

  12. I don’t mind you being critical, cynical or anything. Since I’m a journalist I do know how to accept a bashing. The thing was it wasn’t correct criticism. As a human I try not to live in the past and am actually chasing other women :). Thanks for removing the remark.

  13. Amardeep says:

    Good luck Brenno.

    Rich, has your social tourettes moved into the interwebesphere?

  14. alison says:

    His social tourettes has EATEN the interwebesphere.

  15. mieke says:

    dutch people have no sense of humor.

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