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Dutch for beginners: Lekker

A word frequently used in Dutch, is ‘lekker’. It is such a common word, the Dutch usually don’t even know that they’ve used it. This was pointed out to me by a German woman a few years ago, who teased me with it. The word also exists in German, spelled as ‘lecker’, but the big difference with Dutch is that in German it has only a handful of meanings, the most important one being in relation to food and beverages, where it means ‘tasty’ or ‘yummy’. I never gave the word lekker much thought, until this woman told me that the Dutch use it for pretty much everything. This got me thinking about this catchy little word that most Dutch totally take for granted, but is so much at the core of our culture.

Often, words are more than just semantic symbols and also express certain emotions or sensations. Now in Dutch, ‘lekker’ sort of means that something is good, and since anything can be good, pretty much anything can be lekker. But lekker means more than just being good. The word actually implies all the sensations that go with a specific thing or act being good. Not so much in an emotional sense, but in a physical sense.

Imagine eating chocolate ice cream, preferably with whipped cream. Now obviously that must be very lekker! But what does it mean for ice cream to be lekker? Not just that it tastes good, it’s also the physical pleasures derived from the flavors, the texture, the temperatures etc. Again, not so much in an emotional sense, but in a physical sense. A sort of yummy. A sensation perhaps even resulting in physically feeling balanced and harmonious.

Lekker then, means a million different things. The lekker implied in eating ice cream is of totally different nature than the lekker involved in having an orgasm. Basking in the sun can be lekker in a totally different way, for it implies, amongst other things, the sensation of warmth when the sun heats your skin. Your partner scratching your back when you feel an itch is soooo lekker too, not just because it makes the itch go away, but also because is your partner who is scratching you! And even the feeling of relieve after farting can be damned lekker, although the act of farting itself for most people is not.

In the Netherlands or Flanders, when something is good and you want to express the sensations that go with it to someone else, all you will need is the word lekker, which says it all. So next time when you engage in something that relaxes you from tip to toe and makes you feel that life is good after all, just say: ” Aaaaaah, lekker!!!”

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