Dutch Quirk #25: Have a whole conversation with two-syllable words

HomeUltimate List of Dutch QuirksDutch Quirk #25: Have a whole conversation with two-syllable words

While the Dutch can be very direct in conversation, it’s common to hear them spout some short words that sound an awful lot like gibberish. Poe poe… 🙄

While words like poe poe or nou nou may not sound like much at first, you’ll see that the Dutch are able to speak with only a few words.

Though, we suppose it’d take a special ear to recognise what each of them actually means! 😆

What is it?

The Dutch have many peculiar ways to express themselves without saying a single word that exists in a dictionary!

But what do all these weird words actually mean? We’ve got you covered! 💯

Here are some of the most popular two-syllable Dutch words and their English meanings: 

Zo zoWell well…
Nou nouSlightly impressed
Poe poe(Un)Impressed – depending on inflexion
Ja ja (quickly)Don’t rush me! 
Ja ja (slowly)I don’t believe you…
Hé hé (pronunciation: hey hey)Wait a minute… 
Hè hè (pronunciation: heh heh)Finally! 
Nou (slowly)I doubt that…
Ja, doei! No way! 
Ho hoWait a minute!

Why do they do it?

The Dutch have a very expressive way of communicating their thoughts! Some of these small words can be formally defined as modal particles. 🤓

Modal particles are commonly used in the Dutch language to add a particular mood to what someone is saying.

READ MORE | 17 facts about the Dutch language that will make you go ‘echt’?!

Dutch people can also use the same word in different ways, which can totally change the meaning of a sentence!  

Let’s take these two sentences for example:

  • Hè hè, my food is here! → My food is finally here! 
  • Hé hé, my food is here! → Wait a bit! My food just got here! 

In spoken Dutch, inflection is super important to get your message across to the other person!

Who knew the Dutch language would be so complicated? 🙄

Why is it quirky? 

The Dutch have a way of speaking that is quirky in itself because most of what they’re saying can’t be found in other languages. 

Many words, like the two-syllable expressions, or Dutch idioms don’t make any sense outside of the Netherlands!


Classic Dutch words 👌 😂

♬ Symphony No. 5 In C Minor Op. 67 Part 1 – Beethoven

Saying ho ho in English will either sound like you’re imitating Santa Claus or you just called someone quite an inappropriate name. 😆

In fact, many of the Dutch words in spoken language are completely untranslatable.

For example, words like gezellig or uitbuiken don’t actually mean anything in English or any other language for that matter! 

Should you join in? 

Absolutely! You’ll definitely make the Dutchies go poe poe by using those mini Dutch words!

As long as you know how and when to use them, of course.🤔

READ MORE | How to learn Dutch: the ultimate guide (by people who learned!)

While these words come as second nature to the Dutch, they can be difficult to memorise as an international — but you got this! 

What do you think of this Dutch quirk? Have you experienced it? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Lea Shamaa 🇺🇸🇱🇧
Lea Shamaa 🇺🇸🇱🇧
Lea has a passion for writing and sharing new ideas with the world. She enjoys film photography, Wes Anderson movies, fictional books and jazz music. She came to the Netherlands in 2019 for her media studies and has fallen in love with the country and its culture ever since. She loves to ride her bicycle in the city but also feels the need to overtake everyone on the bike lane (she's working on it).


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